April 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Unpublished Journal
Feb. 19, 1992

The Polk Progress Swedish Philosopher, Alvena Lind, is having emotional problems adjusting to life in a care home. At 83 years of age she is having heart problems that have nothing to do with valentines. She told me, more than once: “When the time comes that I need to go to a retirement home, I’ll go and enjoy visiting and talking to others staying or working there.” The fuss she is loudly making is over that key word, “when.”

"Ethical Economists"

By Jerry Petr

Does the phrase “ethical economist” transport us into the kingdom of oxymorons, along with “European Community” and “fresh prunes”? Apparently the membership of the American Economic Association (AEA) doesn’t think it should. At the 2012 AEA convention, held in January in Chicago (perhaps that itself says something about economic wisdom), the assembled gathering responded to calls for a professional code of ethics by adopting some specific conflict-of-interest guidelines. Primarily requirements or suggestions for disclosure, the new rules are intended to help the public evaluate the “objectivity” or “neutrality” of analysis or policy recommendations coming from economists. Perhaps we will now learn more about who is feathering the nests of the analytical birds who are providing guidance on economic matters.

UNO and CASA Partner to Make a Difference for Nebraska's Abused and Neglected Children

By Jeanette Harder, Ph. D.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. Nebraskans have become increasingly aware of child abuse and neglect as the state has attempted to transfer case management of foster children to private providers. This legislative session has been referred to by many as the session of the child as bills, hearings, reports and discussions have attempted to address the welfare of children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

Judiciary Committee Addresses Child Welfare through Support for CASA

By Sen. Brad Ashford

The Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska legislature plays an important and specific role in the child welfare discussion. The Judiciary Committee is responsible for processing legislation involving, among other things, the courts, judicial procedures and juveniles. Under this general umbrella come the important discussions and decisions regarding abused and neglected children and their experience with and protection by the court. The committee considers and proposes legislation to help ensure that the judicial system is as responsive as possible for children who interact with or are directly affected by the courts.

Book Review: "Field Guide to Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains, Second Edition" by Jon Farrar

Review by Chris Helzer

“Field Guide to Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains, Second Edition”
Author: Jon Farrar
Publisher: University of Iowa Press

If you happen to own a copy of Jon Farrar’s “Field Guide to Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains” from 20 years ago, you’re a lucky person. Only 10,000 copies were printed, and all were sold within about a year and a half of publication. Since that time, anyone not fortunate enough to get in on the original windfall has had to beg, borrow or steal copies from others.

How Will Ongoing Climate Change Affect Drought in the Great Plains?

 A dry stream channel of the North Platte River during drought conditions in Goshen County, Wyo., near the Wyoming-Nebraska state line, May 22, 2002. (USGS)

By Robert J. Oglesby

Drought is a ubiquitous feature of the U.S. Great Plains. Droughts can be short (seasonal), prolonged (occur over several years) or, according to the prehistoric record of so-called “megadroughts,” even persist for decades or longer. The definition of drought depends on context; that is, a short-term drought may be highly detrimental to agriculture, while stream flow may only be affected over prolonged time periods.

Whatever the timescale or affect, drought is due to insufficient rain and snow, possibly in combination with excess evaporation. Drought is likely initiated by remote factors such as cyclical changes in ocean-surface temperature patterns that affect the large-scale atmospheric circulation. These remote factors work in conjunction with local feedbacks due to soil moisture, snow cover and vegetation that can enhance and/or prolong the drought. In this article I will describe how global and regional models of climate have been used to evaluate the relative importance of these local and remote factors. Of course, what everyone interested in the Great Plains wants to know is what will happen to droughts in the future, especially under scenarios of global warming. I will summarize the current understanding of likely climate change for the Great Plains for the remainder of the 21st century, including implications for future drought.

Rainwater Basin Joint Venture: The Partnership Evolves, Part Two

By Doreen Pfost

In 1991 a team of wetland and waterfowl biologists received the news they had awaited for over a year: the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture (RWBJV) had been granted official status by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) committee. Recognition of the new Joint Venture laid the groundwork for region-wide conservation in south-central Nebraska, where each spring millions of migrating waterfowl and other birds fill the skies, fields and wetlands.

The Birds of Nebraska's Boondocks

By Paul A. Johnsgard

The first time I set foot on the shores of Lake McConaughy in the mid-1970s, it was against my will. I had been asked to teach ornithology at the University of Nebraska’s newly established Cedar Point Biological Field Station and anticipated enduring a several-week stay at a hot and mosquito-rich location. I was still grumbling to myself as I approached Kingsley Dam, about nine miles north of Ogallala, and turned off on a narrow gravel road leading through a steep, rocky canyon. Suddenly I flushed a great horned owl from its nest, startled a magpie and could hear rock wrens singing from the canyon walls. In an instant my mood shifted to elation, and I began one of the happiest experiences of my life.

The Ongoing Evolution of the Urban Landscape

By Kendall Weyers

The awareness of the dynamic characteristics of our urban landscape is unsurprisingly low. In our hectic day-to-day activities most of us seldom notice the subtle but constant changes in the landscape around us. The same can be said for the attitudes and approaches of our culture to landscaping—dynamic yet often unnoticed. But that condition has begun to change. The exciting developments occurring right now are so significant, eyes and minds are finally being opened, and people are starting to pay attention.

Lauritzen Gardens Battling Plant Blindness with "Wicked Plants"

By Jim Locklear

Were you raised by wolves?!” exclaims the exasperated mother of the badly behaving child.

It is no secret that people sometimes misbehave just to get attention. Recognizing the effectiveness of this tactic, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanical Center, is using some badly behaving plants to draw a bit more attention to the botanical world in 2012.

Got Drugs?, Part One

By Daniel King and Ally Lamb

Got Drugs?” is the slogan of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) national campaign to collect unwanted and expired medications from the general public. The next DEA National Drug Take-Back Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Consumers in need of such a service are encouraged to contact their local police department or to visit the DEA National Take-back Initiative website for locations and other useful information regarding safe and legal drug disposal.

Sonny's Corner: The Pertinence of Public Service: A Year as an AmeriCorps VISTA

By Jessica Clem-McClaren

Adjusting my neon work vest, I blew away a bead of sweat and handed a folder of neighborhood maps to a team of volunteers standing in front of me. It was the middle of July and an oppressive, unforgiving heat threatened to wipe the cheerful tone out of my voice.

My volunteers, however, were eager to begin work. A team of high school students, they were ready to perform a community betterment project called “Neighborhood Scan” in a South Omaha community known for incredible art and addictive food. Despite the heat, I couldn’t help but become enthused as the kids began their Scan, smiling and laughing on the sidewalks.

Immigration in Nebraska

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