June 2010

Notice:

Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).

Nebraska's byways offer diverse attractions, amenities for RV travelers

By Matt Gersib

With nine scenic and historic byways, eight state parks, 65 state recreation areas and numerous private campgrounds, Nebraska is a great place to travel in a recreational vehicle. The towns and campgrounds along the state’s byways enthusiastically support RV travelers, and the routes take visitors to some of Nebraska’s most magnificent destinations.

Alfredisms

Sept. 23, 1971
“The Prison Riots and ‘Southern Strategy’”

By Norris Alfred

Living in a rural Nebraska village, surrounded by summer’s greening, a blue sky, a full circle horizon with sunrises and sunsets; where the only manifest hostility is nature’s violent storms—we cannot conceive what life is like in the black ghettos of the cities. To grow up on concrete, in a hard, sharp-edged environment where security can only be obtained with a lock, is foreign to us.

Water for Food Conference

By Eugene Glock

The second annual Water for Food conference was held at the Cornhusker Hotel, Lincoln, Neb., from the evening of May 2 through noon of May 5. Its focus, as last year, was to bring forth from researchers globally the best ideas to address the challenge of feeding a rapidly growing world population. Also it was to report on progress toward establishing an International Water for Food Institute in conjunction with the University of Nebraska.

A place called Pahaku

By Paul A. Johnsgard

Dutchman's breeches in Pahaku forest. (Paul A. Johnsgard)There is an area in eastern Nebraska where the Platte River, after flowing northeastwardly from the vicinity of Kearney for nearly 150 miles, enters the glacial drift bordering the Missouri Valley and turns directly east. Over its eastward course of about 50 miles, the river forms a shallow and wide sandy channel that is bounded to the south by forested bluffs and to the north by a wide wooded floodplain. One of these glacially shaped and loess-capped bluffs was known historically to the resident Pawnee tribe as Pahaku (usually but incorrectly spelled as Pahuk) Hill. This Pawnee word may be roughly translated as “mound on or over water,” or “headland.” The bluff is one of five natural sites (four of them along the Platte River) in the historic range of the Pawnees that were considered sacred to them, and it is the only remaining location that is still virtually biologically intact. About 50,000 years ago, during late post-glacial times, this bluff also marked the approximate point where the Platte River abruptly turned southeast.

North America's great carbon ocean: Protecting prairie grasslands keeps carbon in the soil and slows the pace of climate change

Big bluestem prairie grass at Homestead National Monument, Beatrice, Neb. (iStockPhoto/CarbonBrain)

By John H. Davidson

Land conservation priorities have favored visually dramatic resources—mountains, lakes, forests and shores. As a result, we enjoy national seashores, public forests and parks in every mountain range, along with an industry-sized effort built around protecting rainforests. These conservation achievements have, however, overshadowed a more visually humble but no less vital resource in meeting the challenge of global climate change: grasslands of the North American prairie.

Swallows along the Platte, part one

By Charles R. Brown

As spring slowly gives way to summer along Nebraska’s Platte River, and the vast flocks of sandhill cranes and snow geese become only distant memories as they wing their way north to breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska or Siberia, another avian spectacular unfolds near the braided, winding channels of this storied river. Small, sparrow-sized cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) begin returning in the thousands to form enormous nesting colonies underneath bridges over the Platte, in concrete culverts beneath the highways and railroads that crisscross the river valley, or on riverfront cliff faces and natural outcroppings that line the upper reaches of the North Platte River in far western Nebraska. With their gourd-shaped mud nests clustered closely together, neighboring pairs raise their young as a gigantic synchronous horde, which in some ways more resembles a colony of ants or social bees rather than birds. Cliff swallows rival even the more famous sandhill cranes in their propensity to live in large groups and do everything together.

The High Plains aquifer, part two

By Jason Gurdak, Ph.D.

In general, groundwater in the High Plains aquifer currently meets federal and state guidelines for drinking-water quality. However, many factors, such as water use and chemical use, can affect water quality over time. An understanding is therefore needed on the timing and magnitude of the transport of chemicals from the land surface through the unsaturated zone and to groundwater for informed future management and development of this limited resource. Seven of the most important major findings and related implications from the USGS study of groundwater quality in the High Plains are present below.

Summer bird feeding

By Dave Titterington

A dash of orange and a splash of red. A touch of blue with dabs of yellow. These could be the oils or pastels on an artist’s canvas, but instead they are the colorful pallets of our spring and summer birds in their breeding plumage. They paint our yards, fluttering between trees and shrubs, bird feeders and garden ponds. We not only enjoy their bright flashes of color but the melodic songs they sing after being absent or quiet during the long winter. These neotropical birds, intercontinental migrants and residential feathered friends remind us that spring is a season of rebirth. Some will court a new mate with choreographed aerial displays, while other loyal couples return as experienced parents. As they magically appear, it eases the sadness of having recently said goodbye to our winter birds.

Sonny's Corner

By Paul A. Olson

We are in for some sizable immigration battles in Nebraska and ultimately in the Great Plains. The demand for cheap labor appears insatiable; unemployment is lower than in other U. S. sections and the temptation to use undocumented workers high. The competition over jobs between whites and persons of color has become intense in the present economic climate. Consequently, organizations capable of enabling fear of, and contempt for, immigrant populations have grown powerful.

Immigration in Nebraska

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