Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

October 1997


Published in Great Plains Research 7:2 (Fall 1997). Copyright © 1997 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


This book provides an excellent review of its several subjects. I admire the breadth of its vision. It argues for restoration of grasslands on a meaningful scale. It is an important book and in many ways it is a good book, but the subject deserves a great book.

Considering its range, actual errors are few. The problems lie in focus, organization, and integration. The fundamental ecological inadequacy is the deliberate (p. 2) neglect of the extraordinary diversity of grassland ecosystems. Tall grass prairie differs in kind from shortgrass steppe: in predominant flora, fauna, primary and secondary productivity, in dollar-value per acre and the likelihood of making a crop. Grassland ecoregions (six are shown in Map 1) differ in their feel. The sky really does get bigger between Russell and Hays, or out toward Kadoka and Wall. Economics, ecology, and esthetics all insist on distinctions (however subtle), particularly when the aim is to effect change. If we get the baseline analysis wrong we'll get the questions wrong; if we get the questions wrong we'll get the answers wrong.