Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1992


Published in Great Plains Research 2:2 (August 1992), pp. 165-178. Copyright © 1992 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


In December 1987, "The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust, a Daring Proposal for Dealing With an Inevitable Disaster," by Frank and Deborah Popper appeared in Planning, a journal of the American Planning Association. While many alternatives have been suggested to solve the environmental, social, and economic problems of the region, the Poppers' Buffalo Commons thesis quickly made regional and national headlines. Since 1987, the Poppers, while writing and speaking on this topic at length, have failed to substantiate many of their arguments. Meanwhile, their somewhat facile assumptions have attracted a wide and sometimes favorable audience. This paper contains three section: in the first, we will summarize the major ideas of the proposal; second, we will identify its major methodological weaknesses; and in the conclusion, we will link the proposal's implicit and controversial assumptions to a wider geographical context.