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).
The Lied Center for Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is a state icon for great performance. If you live in Lincoln, you walk by the massive theater day after day. Chances are you’ve been there for a dance recital, a Broadway musical, the symphony, a comedy show or the ballet. But you may not know the Lied has more than stage magic inside its walls; it also boasts a thriving statewide arts education program.
Imagine a typical rural farmstead on the Great Plains: a stately house, large lawn, outbuildings and a protective line of pine trees on the north edge. Now, fill that lawn with 10 to 12 trailers and recreation vehicles, parked willy-nilly with no hookups for electricity, water or sewer. That is a typical rural farmstead in the northwest corner of North Dakota.
Along with the farmsteads, picture tidy but long rows of trailers packed onto a rural site along a highway or trailers sitting in most parks and driveways of towns and villages or large sterile-looking dorm buildings lined up with showers, mess halls with four-star chefs and laundry and recreation areas.
These all are “man camps” holding thousands of Oil Patch workers come to produce millions of gallons of oil every day from the Bakken formation underlying an area of 18 North Dakota counties, plus eastern Montana and southern Saskatchewan in Canada. They have transformed the sleepy prairies of northwest North Dakota into one of the largest oil booms in North America.
Three years ago this fall I introduced Mike Forsberg to an audience of families at Spring Creek Audubon Prairie where I was chair of the board. The occasion was an outdoor sundown slide show presentation of Mike’s photographs from his new book, “Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild.” As Mike spoke and showed his remarkable pictures, I thought, “We’ve got to get Mike and his message to the public television audience.” Everyone lounging on blankets or sitting in their lawn chairs that evening from grandmas and grandpas to kindergartners was in thrall, not only to the photos but also to Mike’s message of urgency and hope about the future of “wildness” across the Great Plains.
The United States must replace its aging, dirty and insecure electric system by 2050 just to offset the loss of power plants that are being retired. Any replacement will cost about $6 trillion in net present value, whether it is more of the same, new nuclear power plants and “clean coal” or centralized or distributed renewable sources. But these differ profoundly in the kinds of risks they involve—in terms of security, safety, finance, technology, fuel, water, climate and health—and in how they offset innovation, entrepreneurship and customer choice.
Choosing electricity sources is complicated by copious disinformation, such as the myth that nuclear power was thriving in the United States until environmentalists derailed it after the March 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown. In fact, bad economics made orders for nuclear power plants in the United States fall by 90 percent from 1973 to 1975 and dry up completely by 1978. Indeed, soaring capital costs eventually halted nuclear expansion in all market-based power systems, and by 2010 all 66 reactors under construction worldwide had been bought by central planners.
During July 1804, Lewis and Clark traversed up the middle Missouri River valley, through a region that is now part of northwestern Missouri. On July 12, near the mouth of the Big Nemaha River, they observed some “artificial mounds” representing the locations of ancient Native American graves. There they also saw many Canada geese families along the river. Now, 200 years later, the Big Nemaha River is a tiny, muddy remnant of its once 80-yard width, and all traces of the burial mounds are gone. A small town, Mound City, has developed near here along the eastern edge of the valley, and a stream with the anachronistic name of Squaw Creek provides critical water for Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. And, from late fall through early spring, upwards of a million or more birds stop at this refuge while on their migrations north and south, arriving from breeding grounds as far north as Canada’s high arctic tundra and heading toward wintering grounds as far south as southern South America.
On Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m., photographer, author and conservationist Michael Forsberg will present “Pulse of the Plains” at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln, Neb. This presentation is sponsored by Friends of Wilderness Park, a nonprofit group dedicated to the preservation of Wilderness Park as a unique and sensitive biological community. It is open to everyone for a $10 admission.
LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL) is opening up new opportunities for improving outdoor lighting with incredible energy savings in applications where lights burn throughout the night. LEDs are a long-term solution for streetlights, parking lots, convenience store canopies, lighted signs and even high-mast highway lighting. LEDs are highly efficient, long lasting, environmentally friendly and, when you combine the controllability of LEDs to compound energy savings via dimming and powering lights off when not needed, LEDs further offer better light quality than HID sources and eliminate light pollution.
We were somewhat reluctant Argonauts as we clambered aboard this strange-looking amphibious vehicle for a descent into Otter Canyon. It had six oversized, puffy tires and a bathtub-like body with camouflage paint. Calvin, our pilot, had earlier that day led us into his property on the south bank of the Niobrara River, through which the Keystone XL is slated to cross, ostensibly NOT in the Sandhills.
The absurdity of that designation is immediately evident all around us, on that ridge over Otter Canyon where dune crests roll off to the south, mantled with prairie sand reed, blazing star, evening primrose and dozens of other typical Sandhills species. At my feet is open sand; a few sky-blue lizards scurry after a smorgasbord of grasshoppers among prickly-pear pads and bunch grasses. Below these sands the waters of rains have sifted for thousands of years into the Ogallala Group, only to eventually hit the impermeable White River Group below and flow horizontally to the depths of canyons like Otter, where they emerge as crystal clear springs. Otter is just one of dozens of canyons descending to the Niobrara, but this one is in the path of the pipeline.
The University of Nebraska Omaha’s Grace Abbott School of Social Work is celebrating 75 years of excellence in social work education in 2012. Rechristening of the school took place in 2010, after years of advocacy by department professors who thought the child welfare champion and early social worker embodied the mission of the school.
The school aims to educate generations of social work professionals who engage in scholarship, research and a commitment to service to a diverse range of people. Grace Abbott, a native of Grand Island, Neb., was an advocate at the turn of the century for abolishing child labor and increasing public awareness of the need for services for immigrants, children and their families. The focus of Abbott’s work led her to reside at Hull House in Chicago, one of the first social settlement agencies in the country, working alongside Nobel Prize-winning social advocate Jane Addams. Her contributions against dangerous working conditions for immigrants and children are credited with policy decisions that led to the creation of Social Security and UNICEF.