N. Dak. or Poland–prairie is prairie

Posted January 15th, 2010 by kcorliss. Comments Off on N. Dak. or Poland–prairie is prairie.

Not many years ago I was with a group of birders somewhere in Northwest North Dakota. One of the target species we were seeking was the chestnut-collared longspur, a prairie staple here. Upon spotting a likely location we stopped our small caravan and got out of the vehicles. Immediately longpurs were heard singing.

One young woman was very surprised to learn these birds were found in grazed pastures. In her Utopian view, it appeared, no worthwhile bird should be associated with the "evil" practice of raising cattle. She was apparently completely unaware of reality. For you see, a great many prairie species actually depend on large grazing ungulates for nesting habitat. Bison, having been extirpated from our Great Plains over 100 years ago, used to be the animal responsible. Today it’s cattle. Without them, there would be a huge loss of nesting habitat.

Enter this article from Poland, headlined, "Polish cows help protect rare bird." The very first sentence says it all:

Twenty five cows will be handed over for free to farmers in eastern Poland to graze in the open, creating an ideal habitat for the Lesser Spotted Eagle.

The parallels between these two scenarios should be readily apparent.

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