February 2012


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).


Unpublished Journal
Jan. 10, 1992

The weather is warmer and dryer—an open winter is how the winter of 1991–92 is being described, though there is still most of January and all of February and March before this winter can accurately be described as open. Most of the moisture, to date, has come as rain and welcomed. The big snows came the last of October and first of November. The Polkites figured on a closed winter. Predicting is a chancy occupation when it comes to weather and length of life. Predicting is a mental exercise to forego surprises. The only surprise from this mental exercise is the occasional accuracy of the prediction.

Listening to the Conversations, Part Three: Land and Public Policy Recommendations

By W. Cecil Steward

In 1862, with the origination of the Homestead Act, who could have imagined the changes—biologically, agriculturally, developmentally, the importance to the economy and/or the social-cultural evolution—that land uses and land ownership would mean to the Nebraska landscape?

Our Energy Future

By Johnathan Hladik

Nebraskans face a difficult decision. New EPA regulations could require the Nebraska Public Power District to invest more than $1 billion in order to bring old, dirty, coal-fired power plants into compliance. Let’s take a look at what this decision means for rural development throughout our state and the potential for a state-based new energy economy. We’ll then consider the impacts of coal and the role this resource will play moving forward. Do we invest more and more into an outdated energy future or are we ready to move beyond coal?

Book Reviews: An Economics Triptych: Three Current Books Relevant to Current Economic Discussions

Reviews by Jerry Petr

"Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics"
Author: Nicholas Wapshott
Publisher: Norton

"Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius"
Author: Sylvia Nasar
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

"23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism"
Author: Ha-Joon Chang
Publisher: Bloomsbury Press

Nebraska's Magical Sandhill Crane Migration

Sandhill cranes against the moon, 2011. (Paul A. Johnsgard)

By Paul A. Johnsgard

Over the past 50 years I have often been asked why, of all the places I have lived and visited, I chose Nebraska as the place I have decided to spend the rest of my life. I quite willingly admit that Nebraska lacks the mountain grandeur of Colorado, the wonderful rocky coastline of Oregon and the stunning glaciers of Alaska. Yet I quickly point out that we Nebraskans can claim the continent’s largest remaining native prairie flora and its associated prairie wildlife, perched on the largest region of picturesque sand dunes in the western hemisphere. This in turn rests atop one of the greatest reservoirs of fresh water in the world, whose artesian springs give birth to such beautiful Sandhills streams as the Calamus, Loup, Dismal and Elkhorn. Then, as a trump card, I say, “Oh yes, and for six weeks in spring we also have what is one of the largest and most spectacular concentrations of birds in the world.”

Saving Oaks with Wisdom

By Jack Phillips

If plants had religion, oaks would be shamans. Human history is thickly forested with sacred trees, and no other native Great Plains presence symbolizes the aspiration to traverse the realms of heaven, earth and underworld. In this, bur oaks have no equal, being unmatched in longevity and reach. And they have another eco-mystical ability. They can enter and occupy a wide range of distant and forbidding habitats. Unlike other oaks, bur oaks are unperturbed by prairie fire, alkaline soils, drought, big bovines and competition by deep-rooted grasses.

The Real Wealth of Nations: Mapping and Monetizing Biocapacity and the Human Ecological Footprint

By Paul C. Sutton

Following the publication of Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” in 1949, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962 and Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” in 1968, the early 1970s were a time of rapidly expanding consciousness of issues associated with environmental degradation and human responsibility for those impacts on the environment. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, actually caught on fire, and there was a significant oil spill in the Santa Barbara channel. These events likely contributed to precipitating the first Earth Day celebration in 1970. Approximately one year after the first Earth Day celebration, Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren published an important conceptual paper titled “Impact of Population Growth.” This paper postulated an oft-cited equation: I = P × A × T (where “I” is Impact, “P” is Population, “A” is Affluence and “T” is Technology).

Clouds and Concretions

An essay written during the Prairie Writers Workshop, May 2010, at the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie near Red Cloud, Neb.

By William Beachly

Where are the hard edges when we consider this prairie before us? Perhaps a photograph would create the illusion of them: freezing a crystalline moment. But in motion, in real time, there are no real edges. Like Heisenberg’s particles—position and place and motion are not a unity. The edges of the prairie itself as a named formation are vague too. Its very name denoting “a little meadow” shows the lack of a suitable term. Those French trappers had known no such place to relate it to. Prairie is to place as impressionism is to art: it’s a genre of place.

A Guide to Central Nebraska

Welcome to the Great Central Nebraska Flyway! While you are in the area for the Sandhill crane migration, we hope you’ll select from the attractions and businesses listed here, a sampling of the many opportunities available to enrich your experience while in central Nebraska. For more detailed information about items on this list, go to redcarpetservice.nebraska.edu. You’ll find a link to a document that can be downloaded and/or printed.

Viewing the Cranes: A First-Timer's Guide

By Daniel Glomski

So you’ve always wanted to see the great sandhill crane migration but have never taken the time to get in the car and make the short trip to the central Platte valley?

You get yet another opportunity. As they’ve done for millenia, the sandhills will arrive in early spring by the hundreds of thousands—one of the greatest migration spectacles on the planet. Little wonder that many people travel hundreds, even thousands of miles to witness it. If you’re a Nebraskan, the show literally comes to you.

OK, you’ve decided to see for yourself what the hoopla is all about. How should you prepare for your initial crane-viewing venture?

Make 2012 Nebraska's Big Year for Birds

By Daniel Glomski, Jill Liske-Clark, and Judy Weston

Are you a birder?

Odds are good that you qualify. Over 48 million Americans, about 21 percent of the population, watch birds in one form or another, spending about $36 billion annually on the hobby. The vast majority of birders stick to the backyard, setting up a feeding station and watching to see what shows up. If you fall into this category, you might not consider yourself a birder. After all, don’t “real” birders jump into the car or book a flight at the drop of a hat to chase a rare stray in some distant locale?

The Owls of Nebraska

By Paul A. Johnsgard

Few people are entirely neutral as to their attitudes about owls. As mysterious nocturnal visitors, their voices send fear into the hearts many but offer a haunting and relaxing mantra to others. Probably many people spend their entire lives without ever seeing a wild owl, their camouflage-like plumages blend into their background so well that a family of owls can exist in a hollow tree of one’s backyard without even being noticed.

Funding Water Development In Nebraska

Recently, twelve Nebraska citizens met and discussed the needs and possible solutions to the lack of an adequate, stable source of funding to address the state’s water development funding needs. This group discussed four critical questions that must be answered:

1st- What are annual funding needs for water development in Nebraska?

2nd- What qualifies as water development?

3rd- Who should decide how funds for water development are spent?

4th- What are possible funding sources?

Immigration in Nebraska

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