Letter to the editor: Preserve the praire ecosystem before it’s goneIn his recent column, Lloyd Omdahl was spot-on in writing that the state’s top priority right now is to meet the burgeoning demands for services and infrastructure in western North Dakota (“Creating a future rests on prioritizing the present,” The Jamestown Sun, June 18).
By: Dave Lambeth, The Jamestown Sun
In his recent column, Lloyd Omdahl was spot-on in writing that the state’s top priority right now is to meet the burgeoning demands for services and infrastructure in western North Dakota (“Creating a future rests on prioritizing the present,” The Jamestown Sun, June 18).
Omdahl also identified three other areas for long-term, strategic attention: education, economic development and tax reform. I would add to the list the need to preserve more of the state’s natural heritage while we still can.
We once were truly a prairie state, with an abundance of grassland and wetland animals and plants that constituted the prairie ecosystem. This ecosystem is now virtually gone from the Red River Valley and increasingly is disappearing across the state because of energy development and the conversion of grassland to cropland. So I pose the question, are we willing to let the prairie ecosystem disappear entirely?
Breeding bird surveys consisting of 50 stops along 25-mile routes have been run across North Dakota since the late 1960s. These surveys document a rapid decline in our state bird along with such marquee grassland species as upland sandpiper, horned lark, chestnut-collared longspur, Baird’s sparrow, and Sprague’s pipit. Their decline is due to steady loss of their grassland habitat.
For 10 years now, it has been my privilege to guide visitors attending the Prairie and Pothole Birding Festival in Carrington, N.D. This year, 70 people from 24 states attended the festival. Such visitors are in awe at the grassland and wetland birds that we still have, at the courtship displays and nesting activities they see. But those of us serving as guides are finding it increasingly difficult to show the species our visitors most want to see.
My letter is not to urge that we turn back the clock, demonize farmers who seek to make a living from the land, or stop the development of energy resources that we all need and enjoy. Rather it is to urge that we look at the natural areas we still have and ask two questions: How can we ensure the survival of the best of what is left? And how can we best manage our grassland, wetland and water resources over the long-term?
Our state is the envy of the nation because of the money coming in from agriculture and energy. We are in a position to make the financial investment needed to conserve a remnant of what Native Americans knew and early settlers found upon arrival in North Dakota. The window of opportunity to act is now.