Morning Sun

Kansas’s prairie rapidly shrinking

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The health of the dewy Kansas prairie is vital. It maintains the state’s watersheds and supports two major agricultur­al exports: cattle, and the wheat that becomes the nation’s bread.

Once North America’s largest ecosystem, the prairie now is rapidly shrinking: Less than 4% of the tallgrass prairie remains, according to the National Park Service, with most of it in Kansas, a state with very little public land.

That means that conserving the prairie is up to private landowners like Harder, along with farmers and ranchers. Some residents have made conservati­on their life mission, even spending years transformi­ng their property into a native prairie preserve in their backyard.

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