Preservation of the Tallgrass Prairie
The tallgrass prairie ecosystem once covered over 400,000 square miles in North America. This area extended from Canada southward to Texas and from the Rocky Mountains east to present-day Ohio. Today, just one percent of this terrain remains in existence in its natural state, much of which is located in the untamed Flint Hills of eastern Kansas.
There had been a movement for nearly 50 years in favor of some sort of preserve of the minimal resources of this vast prairie that were left. In 1994, the National Park Trust bought a large section (nearly 11,000 acres) of land at the historic Z-Bar/Spring Hill Ranch in Chase County. This rekindled interest for the project, and a bill was introduced in 1996 to both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Sponsored by members of the Kansas congressional delegation, including Senators Nancy Landon Kassebaum and Bob Dole and Representatives Pat Roberts and Ann Meyers, the bill ended up passing through both houses of Congress. The newest United States National Park was born under the name of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The park is located 18 miles west of Emporia, or just 2 miles north of Strong City on Highway 177.
Description of Materials by Sources
The scientific journal, of course, seems to concentrate solely on the environment of the prairie itself. It describes in depth the soil variations and topographic relief of the region of the new park. It presents factual information in almost agonizing detail that can sometimes be difficult to follow. References are used, citing material from authors of other journals, which allows for verification of anything. I have the utmost faith in the author of this piece and his vast array of knowledge about the topography of the tallgrass prairie.
The Popular Science article also discusses the natural environment of the region. It is not about the reserve itself, but rather the Flint Hills region and various agricultural research projects that have been performed there for aid in areas that were once tallgrass prairie, but have since been transformed into farming lands. There is plenty of factual information, but not in near as much detail as the journal gave, making for an easier read for the most part. The only reference really used was one mention of a related article, which makes it somewhat difficult to verify the facts. However, I have no problems with any of the author s information because of this, as it most likely means she just did most of the research herself.
The pieces from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Travel & Leisure magazine are both very soft articles that are aimed at potential visitors to the area. They possess little or no scientific fact and fail, for the most part, to mention anything about the vast decrease in North America s tallgrass prairie lands. However, they do provide human-interest factoids about what to do to enjoy the area if you will be visiting. There is no referencing, as the articles are presented from the author s personal experiences. That being said, the authors having been there themselves makes me trust that what they are writing is at least honest and truly is their opinion, if not absolute fact, of the region.
Finally, the two websites both do an amazingly good job of covering anyone s interest in the area. For the avid scientist, they provide good information about the natural features of the land. The would-be traveler to the park also can gain a lot of information, including history and what to see while in the area. Maps are included for reference. My faith in the truth of the material here comes from the fact that one is from the National Park Trust, which owns the land, and the other is from the National Park Service, which maintains it. If anyone knows all there is to know about this land, it would be these two organizations.
Summary and Evaluation
In sum, I would have to say that I really am not all that surprised at what I found each particular source to be interested in. I also am not surprised that I trust their information and the validity of it, because they stuck to what they are good at. For instance, if the travel magazine had tried to go in depth about the topsoils of the region, I would not have trusted it. First of all, they are not scientists at all that would generally know any of that, and secondly, they would have been straying from their audience in detailing things like that.
Most of my knowledge about environmental issues probably comes from the popular press. I am not much of a scientist, as I am a business major, so I can t keep interested in Smithsonian or American Scientist, much less any of the detail-heavy scientific journals. However, I m also not going to trust the tabloid press with really informing me of anything important, so I keep it in perspective. I also am very active on the web, so I can learn a lot from that as well.
In general, I think most people are probably like me in that most of what they know environmentally comes from what they read in newspapers or see on the evening news. Really, I think that s how it should be also, because that is the medium that reaches out to the most people.
Penney, Cynthia. Range Rovers. Travel & Leisure. Sep. 1993: MW1-MW4.