Tallgrass prairies once covered most of the Midwestern United States from eastern Kansas to western Indiana. In addition, pocket prairies extended into northeast Ohio and southern Ontario, including oxbows of the White River in Central Indiana in Noblesville, Fishers, and Strawtown. Three-to-eight-foot-high grasses, rather than trees, dominated this ecosystem. However, this ecosystem is the most diminished and degraded of all the U.S. ecosystems – less than one percent of the original prairie remains. As a result grassland birds such as Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark have suffered steeper and more consistent population declines than any group of North American birds. Native insect species have become imperiled as well. Monarch Butterfly populations have fallen more than 95 percent in the last century.
Prairie remnants and the species they harbor continue to be stressed by fragmentation, invasive species, poor management practices, disturbance from adjacent land use and continued outright destruction for row-crop agriculture. A number of people have been concerned about this loss and degradation of our biological heritage and its biodiversity, and have attempted to restore tallgrass prairies. Koteewi Park near Strawtown and parts of Connor Prairie in Fishers are two examples of restored tallgrass prairies in Central Indiana. The Nature Conservancy is restoring a large tallgrass prairie in Newton County in Northwest Indiana – the nearly 8,000 acre Kankakee Sands Efroymson Family Prairie Restoration.
Project Eden seeks to restore broken ecosystems such as tallgrass prairies. On the 50-acre Grace Church campus along 146th Street in Noblesville, we have begun replacing small areas of turf grass and former soybean fields with native grasses and flowers. We also encourage and help homeowners and other land owners to re-create small meadows of native prairie grasses such as Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Big Bluestem. Colorful native flowers such as Prairie Coneflower and Black-eyed Susan can be easily integrated and established with the grasses. Restoration and seed-producing companies, including Cardno JFNew and Prairie Nursery, are good sources of prairie seeds and easily-transplanted prairie grass and flower plugs.
We intend to schedule and lead visits to restored prairies to help people grow in their understanding and appreciation of these wonderful examples of God’s diverse creation. For more information contact Greg Osland.