Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

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This article is about the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma. There is also a Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, a Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois, and a Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Manitoba.
Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.jpg
Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
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Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (the US)
Location Osage County, Oklahoma
Nearest city Pawhuska
Coordinates 36°50′31″N96°25′08″W / 36.842°N 96.419°W / 36.842; -96.419 Coordinates: 36°50′31″N96°25′08″W / 36.842°N 96.419°W / 36.842; -96.419
Area 45,000 acres (180 km2)
Established 1989
Governing body The Nature Conservancy

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, located in Osage County, Oklahoma near Foraker, Oklahoma, is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. It is protected as the largest tract of remaining tallgrass prairie in the world. The preserve contains 39,000 acres (160 km2) owned by the Conservancy and another 6,000 acres (24 km2) leased in what was the original tallgrass region of the Great Plains that stretched from Texas to Manitoba. [1] [2]

Osage County, Oklahoma county in Oklahoma

Osage County is the largest county by area in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Created in 1907 when Oklahoma was admitted as a state, the county is named for and is home to the federally recognized Osage Nation. The county is coextensive with the Osage Nation Reservation, established by treaty in the 19th century when the Osage relocated there from Kansas. The county seat is in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, one of the first three towns established in the county. The total population of the county is 47,987.

Foraker, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

Foraker is a town in Osage County, Oklahoma, United States. It was named for Ohio Senator Joseph B. Foraker. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is southeast of town. The official population peaked at 415 in 1910 and has declined steadily since 1930. The population was only 19 at the 2010 census, a 17.4 percent decline from 23 at the 2000 census.

The Nature Conservancy organization

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a charitable environmental organization, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, United States.

Contents

Description

The preserve is located at the southern end of the Flint Hills, a rocky, rolling prairie that stretches from northern Kansas into Oklahoma. Exposed limestone formations make cultivation difficult, and thus the Flint Hills have survived much as they were when they were an Indian hunting ground for tribes such as the Wichita, Osage, and Kaw. The region is called “The Osage” by Oklahomans, referring to the name of the county and the Indian tribe to which the land belonged. Pilots call The Osage the “Black Hole” when flying over it at night because it is so lightly populated. [3]

Flint Hills landform

The Flint Hills, historically known as Bluestem Pastures or Blue Stem Hills, are a region in eastern Kansas and north-central Oklahoma named for the abundant residual flint eroded from the bedrock that lies near or at the surface. It consists of a band of hills stretching from Kansas to Oklahoma, extending from Marshall and Washington Counties in the north to Cowley County, Kansas and Kay and Osage Counties in Oklahoma in the south, to Geary and Shawnee Counties west to east. Oklahomans generally refer to the same geologic formation as the Osage Hills or "the Osage."

Osage Nation Native American Siouan-speaking tribe in the United States

The Osage Nation is a Midwestern Native American tribe of the Great Plains. The tribe developed in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys around 700 BC along with other groups of its language family. They migrated west of the Mississippi after the 17th century due to wars with Iroquois invading the Ohio Valley from New York and Pennsylvania in a search for new hunting grounds. The nations separated at that time, and the Osage settled near the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers.

In March bison graze the new green grass in areas of the preserve which were burned the previous fall. Bison at tallgrass prairie preserve.jpg
In March bison graze the new green grass in areas of the preserve which were burned the previous fall.

Prior to its purchase by the Nature Conservancy in 1989, the preserve was called the Barnard Ranch which had been part of the Chapman-Barnard ranch of 100,000 acres (400 km2). [4] The foreman of the Chapman-Barnard ranch, Ben Johnson, Sr. was a rodeo champion. His son, also a rodeo champion, was Ben Johnson, Jr. who appeared in more than 300 movies and won an Oscar for his role in “The Last Picture Show.” [3]

Ben Johnson (actor) American film actor (1918-1996)

Ben "Son" Johnson Jr. was an American stuntman, world champion rodeo cowboy, and Academy Award-winning actor. The son of a rancher, Johnson arrived in Hollywood to deliver a consignment of horses for a film. He did stunt-double work for several years before breaking into acting through the good offices of John Ford. Tall and laconic, Johnson brought further authenticity to many roles in Westerns with his extraordinary horsemanship. An elegiac portrayal of a former cowboy theatre owner in the 1950s coming-of-age drama, The Last Picture Show, won Johnson the 1971 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. He operated a horse-breeding farm throughout his career. Although he said he had succeeded by sticking to what he knew, shrewd real estate investments made Johnson worth an estimated $100 million by his latter years.

<i>The Last Picture Show</i> 1971 film by Peter Bogdanovich

The Last Picture Show is a 1971 American drama film directed and co-written by Peter Bogdanovich, adapted from a semi-autobiographical 1966 novel The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry.

The preserve is bisected by well-timbered Salt Creek and its tributaries. The eastern portion of the preserve is in the Cross Timbers, a north-south running belt of tangled oak forests that were a major impediment to early travelers heading west. [3] About 10 percent of the preserve is forested and the remainder is tallgrass prairie with grasses of several species that can grow 10 feet (3 m) tall. [5]

Cross Timbers

The term Cross Timbers, also known as Ecoregion 29, Central Oklahoma/Texas Plains, is used to describe a strip of land in the United States that runs from southeastern Kansas across Central Oklahoma to Central Texas. Made up of a mix of prairie, savanna, and woodland, it forms part of the boundary between the more heavily forested eastern country and the almost treeless Great Plains, and also marks the western habitat limit of many mammals and insects.

The tallgrass prairie owes its existence to fire, whether caused by lightning or manmade. Without fire, the prairie quickly becomes brushland. The Indians were aware of this and burned the prairie regularly to nurture new growth of succulent grasses and to kill intrusive trees and shrubs. The Nature Conservancy has continued this practice with a process called “patch burning” in which about one-third of the prairie is burned each year. [6] This process has proven beneficial not only for bison and cattle, but also for the threatened greater prairie chickens which also inhabit the preserve in small numbers.

<i>Bison</i> genus of mammals

Bison are large, even-toed ungulates in the genus Bison within the subfamily Bovinae.

Cattle domesticated form of Aurochs

Cattle—colloquially cows—are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos taurus.

Greater prairie chicken species of bird in the grouse family

The greater prairie chicken or pinnated grouse, sometimes called a boomer, is a large bird in the grouse family. This North American species was once abundant, but has become extremely rare and extirpated over much of its range due to habitat loss. Conservation measures are underway to ensure the sustainability of existing small populations. One of the most famous aspects of these creatures is the mating ritual called booming.

Bison are the most prominent attraction of the preserve. An Oklahoma oilman, Kenneth Adams, donated 300 bison to the preserve in 1993. By 2000, the herd had increased to 1,200. [6] The herd now numbers more than 2,500 and grazes 21,000 acres (85 km2) of mostly open range. Bison are rounded up each fall and the excess numbers sold. Cattle are grazed on 11,000 acres (45 km2). The preserve supports 755 plant species, many unique to the tallgrass prairie, and more than 300 bird species. [5] [7] Forest trees include several species of oak, cottonwoods, ash, red cedar, elm, sycamore, and others.

Open range

In the Western United States and Canada, open range is rangeland where cattle roam freely regardless of land ownership. Where there are "open range" laws, those wanting to keep animals off their property must erect a fence to keep animals out; this applies to public roads as well. Land in open range that is designated as part of a "herd district" reverses liabilities, requiring an animal's owner to fence it in or otherwise keep it on the person's own property. Most eastern states and jurisdictions in Canada require owners to fence in or herd their livestock.

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is on what used to be the Osage Indian Reservation. The Osage Indians [8] retained sub-surface mineral rights on all their former lands and the petroleum on their reservation made them the richest people per capita in the world in the 1930s. Today, bison graze among the more than 100 producing oil wells on the preserve. [3]

The preserve is home to numerous interesting invertebrates species. In addition to the many species of butterflies and moths that feed and host on the flowering plant biodiversity found there, the prairie mole cricket (Gryllotalpa major) is a rare insect species found on the preserve. Males congregate in leks in large numbers in the spring months (April–May) to produce loud choruses from calling burrows to attract flying females. In the summer months the preserve serves as habitat for the endangered American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), which plays an important role in nutrient cycling.

==Visiting and recreation== Emporia,Kansas, is the nearest large town. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is open every day from dawn to dusk. There is no admission charge. The headquarters of the Chapman-Barnard ranch has been converted into a visitor center with restrooms, a gift shop, and the restored bunkhouse in which the cowboys lived. The main building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 01000208). [6] The gift shop is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m from March to mid-November.

Near Salt Creek are two hiking trails. One is a short nature trail; the other is a 2-mile (3 km) trail that climbs to overlooks over the creek and through the riparian forest. Frequently, bison are seen just across the fence that separates the hiking area from grazing areas. White tailed deer are abundant in the wooded areas.

The principal activity for the 10,000 visitors to the preserve yearly is driving the many dirt roads to observe the bison. It is a rare visitor who does not see hundreds of bison near – and often blocking – the roads. There are scenic turnouts along the roads and broad vistas of rolling prairie, emerald green in spring, tall and brown in fall, and dotted with wildflowers in the summer. [1]

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Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, north of Strong City. The preserve protects a nationally significant example of the once vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Of the 400,000 square miles (1,000,000 km2) of tallgrass prairie that once covered the North American continent, less than 4% remains, primarily in the Flint Hills. Since 2009, the preserve has been home to the growing Tallgrass Prairie bison herd.

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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

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Osage Plains west-central Missouri, the southeastern third of Kansas, most of central Oklahoma, and extending into north-central Texas in the USA

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Hoosier Prairie State Nature Preserve

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Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve

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References

  1. 1 2 "Tallgrass Prairie Preserve". nature.org. The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  2. Rinehart, Bill (April 22, 2005). "Across the Fence : Patch Burning Results". oklanature.com. Archived from the original on March 9, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Jones, Jr., Jenk. "Osage County History". oklanature.com. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  4. Warehime, Les (2000). History of Ranching the Osage. Tulsa, OK: W.W. Publishing. p. 253.
  5. 1 2 Hamilton, R.G. (2007). "Restoring heterogeneity on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: applying the fire–grazing interaction model". Pages 163–169 in R.E. Masters and K.E.M. Galley (eds.). Proceedings of the 23rd Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference: Fire in Grassland and Shrubland Ecosystems. Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida, USA.
  6. 1 2 3 Larry. O'Dell, " Tallgrass Prairie Preserve." Encyclopedia of History and Culture.
  7. "Tallgrass Prairie Preserve". TravelOK.com. Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  8. Osage Nation