November 2014


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 Minimum Wage Increase: Making Hard Work Pay Is Good for All of Us

Minimum wage toon by Paul Fell

By Jeremy Nordquist

All Nebraskans value hard work. All Nebraskans want an economy that provides opportunity. Nebraska has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and one of the highest rates of working parents. Yet, despite working hard, too many Nebraska families are struggling to prosper, and it is weighing down our economy and support system.

In the upcoming November election, voters will be provided the opportunity to increase state minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour by 2016. Why is this important? Because jobs must pay enough for workers to meet their basic needs—like paying for a doctor visit or putting gas in the car. At the current minimum wage, a full-time salary is about $15,000 per year, far below what any workers need to support themselves and their families in any community in Nebraska. As a result, the lines are becoming blurred between the middle class, the working poor, and those who are living in absolute poverty.

Book Review: The Groundwater Atlas of Nebraska: Resource Atlas No. 4b/2013 Third (revised) Edition

Review by Ann Bleed

Title: The Groundwater Atlas of Nebraska: Resource Atlas No. 4b/2013 Third (revised) Edition
Authors: Jesse T. Korus, Leslie M. Howard, Aaron R. Young, Dana P. Divine, Mark E. Burbach, Michael Jess, and Douglas R. Hallum with contributions from R. F. Diffendal Jr. and R. M. Joeckel, edited by R. F. Diffendal Jr.
Publisher: Conservation and Survey Division, School of Natural Resources, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Although most of Nebraska is considered to be semiarid, because of groundwater the state has many miles of rivers, including an officially designated Scenic River along a portion of the Niobrara River and the iconic Platte River, a major stopping place for birds as they migrate across the state. In Nebraska’s Sandhills, groundwater has also created numerous lakes, wetlands, and meadows, which support wildlife and cattle, even during droughts. Groundwater also provides water for most Nebraskans domestic and agricultural uses.

Book Review: Deep Map Country: Literary Cartography of the Great Plains by Susan Naramore Maher

Review by Carolyn Johnsen

Title: Deep Map Country: Literary Cartography of the Great Plains
Authors: Susan Naramore Maher
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press

Deep Map Country was written by a scholar for scholars, and yet, it offers something for the nonscholarly reader, as well.

Susan Naramore Maher, formerly of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is currently the dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In what Maher often refers to as this “study,” it’s clear that she admires many writers—both scholars like John Janovy and nonscholar writers like Wallace Stegner, Jolene Bair, and Linda Hasselstrom. Maher calls Loren Eiseley “a monumental figure among modern essayists.” Eiseley has a large following, however, because, in addition to poetry, he wrote what is commonly referred to as “creative nonfiction”—a genre of writing that makes often arcane information available to all readers.


Unpublished Journal
October 20, 1992

I’m writing this in Hamilton, New York, while visiting Jonathan and Pat Kistler, friends for more than fifty years, and report without rancor or joy that some snowflakes floated in with a light, cold rain, descending out of a gray sky and hurried to the ground on a southward slant by a north wind, causing a housebound yesterday.

Nebraska’s Climate Change Report

On September 25 the University of Nebraska released the Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska report as part of the Heuermann Lecture Series. The full seventy-two-page report can be read at Don Wilhite and his colleagues graciously made the report summary available to Prairie Fire, but it was embargoed until the day after our October issue hit the streets. We are proud to display it on our front page in order to underscore the importance of this report.

By Don Wilhite, Bob Oglesby, Clint Rowe, and Deborah Bathke

Globally, we face significant economic, social, and environmental risks as we confront the challenges associated with climate change. The body of scientific evidence confirms with a high degree of certainty that human activities in the form of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, changes in land use, and other factors are the primary cause for the warming that the planet has experienced, especially in recent decades.

Seeds of Wisdom: Deep Roots for a Profitable, Largescale Organic Farm

By Peter Carrels

The first thing you’ve gotta do is dismiss the stereotype that organic farmers are small farmers. The second thing you must dismiss is the notion that organic growers are recent arrivals on the agricultural scene. Then you’d better understand the dramatically rising interest by consumers in healthy, nutritious foods.

Charlie and Allan Johnson’s organic farm in southeastern South Dakota has a poignant history, with a terrific backstory enriched by a father who inspired his sons.

The Prodigal Naturalist, Part One

By Jack Phillips

I look at the sunshine and feel that there is no contracted order: there is divine chaos, and, in it, limitless hope and possibilities. —Richard Jefferies, The Absence of Design in Nature, 1885

A sunny July morning drew me into a cool ravine in Iowa’s Loess Hills. I had a job to do, at least my colleagues did. My taxonomic skills are easily eclipsed; botanizing fell squarely on the shoulders of those with sufficient expertise. I was no less happy to be confused under that verdant chaos of snakeroot, bloodroot, goosefoot, virgin’s bower, maiden’s hair, jack-in-the-pulpit, licorice, fleabane, tick trefoil, clearweed, bittersweet, honeysuckle, bedstraw, bell-flower, oxalis, oak, basswood, ironwood, walnut, bladdernut, coffee-tree, ash, and others too numerous to name or master. That morning is best described with the words of Richard Jefferies: “There is no enough in nature. It is one vast prodigality. It is a feast. There is no economy: it is all one immense extravagance.” That deep ravine was an immense, extravagant, prodigal feast.

The ‘Better World’ Hypothesis: Reflections on the People’s Climate March

By Reverend Kimberly C. Morrow

I needed a good sign.

My fourteen-year-old daughter and I had traveled 1,300 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska, to the epicenter of throbbing Manhattan to take part in the People’s Climate March. I knew that photographers like good signs, and we all wanted great media coverage. I needed a short, pithy statement that encapsulated my theological stance on the climate crisis.

Roadside Caterpillar

By Kelly Madigan

After you search a hundred milkweed plants or so for caterpillars, you begin to pick up on the telltale signs that they are occupying a particular stem. Frass, primarily. Which is just another word for poop, which itself is another word for excrement. Caterpillars are voracious, and all that input means there must be some output, which looks like miniature kibble, dry and squareish, and it tends to collect on the leaf or leaves below the place where the fellow is munching. While the cat’ herself might be on the underside of the leaf, the frass is always on the top side, easily seen, and gives her location away.

Secrets of the Most Sincerely Dead: Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

By Paul A. Johnsgard

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is separated from Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park by only about 250 miles of mostly sandy Nebraska landscapes, but the two sites are isolated by nearly ten million years of time. In appearance they are also markedly different. Agate Fossil Beds, in Sioux County of Nebraska’s northwestern panhandle, is situated among heavily eroded shortgrass plains and ancient bluffs, where the still-tiny Niobrara River cuts a meandering thin blue line through an otherwise arid landscape. In contrast, Ashfall Fossil Beds is located in northeastern Nebraska, within the well-watered valley of a broad and mature Niobrara River, most of which consists of fertile farmland devoted to raising corn.

Clean Fuel Options Are Becoming More Commonplace

By Jim McGee

It might surprise some that Nebraska has been a clean fuel state for many years and alternate fuels have been part of the state’s energy landscape for quite a long time. Today, alternate fuels are rapidly becoming a much more visible alternative to petroleum-based fuels used in transportation.

Transportation, clean fuels, and energy are major players in the state’s modern economy; and the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program are playing significant supporting roles in getting Nebraska’s clean fuels options on solid ground as hybrids, CNG, and propane vehicles are becoming more commonplace.

Economic Benefits of Clean Energy to Be Discussed at Nebraska Conservation Summit

By Chelsea Johnson

Nebraska has the potential to lead the nation in clean energy: Our state ranks third in the nation in wind and thirteenth in solar potential, and we have enormous biomass and biogas resources. But less than 5 percent of our state’s electricity is currently produced by renewables, and we are heavily reliant on coal to meet our electricity demands. Nebraska is one of the top importers of coal nationwide, and we rank fourth in per capita expenditures on coal imports. We are being surpassed by all of our neighboring states in clean energy development, and have a long way to go before we meet our potential in renewable energy.

Photo Exhibition Celebrates Tricentennial of Platte’s Discovery by the French

By Doug Meigs

Three hundred years ago, a French explorer introduced the Platte River, and Nebraska, to Europe. Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont had arrived at the mouth of the Platte on June 16, 1714. According to his navigational logs, the Otoe living along the river called it the “Flat Water,” the Nibraskier. Today, the river and its original Otoe name define the modern state of Nebraska.

Robert Manley on Immigration History

By Mary Garbacz

Nebraska’s immigration history informs today’s immigration debates, if the late Nebraska historian Robert Manley were here to talk about it. Manley died in 2008 at age eighty after a long career of learning, listening, writing, and telling about Nebraska history. Manley was born in Wisconsin, raised in Illinois, played semiprofessional baseball in Kansas—but his adult life was spent in Nebraska. He worked as a teacher: in Osceola, at Hiram Scott College in Scottsbluff, and at the University of Nebraska; as a community ambassador with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development; as president of Selection Research Inc. in Lincoln.

“Why did people come here?” Manley was asked during the November 2007 interview. That question was the only one asked during the interview; the two hours to follow were Manley’s stories that supported the first few words of his answer: “We wanted them.”

Sonny's Corner: Commonsense Immigration Reform Would Benefit Nebraska and the Nation

By Heath Mello, Kathy Campbell, Annette Dubas, and Jeremy Nordquist

Over the past few years, the Obama administration has undertaken efforts to transform our nation’s immigration enforcement system into one that primarily focuses on public safety, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system.

Because it is critical that the Department of Homeland Security prioritizes its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, DHS has stated that they will “exercise prosecutorial discretion as appropriate to ensure that enforcement resources are not expended on low priority cases, such as individuals who came to the United States as children and meet other key guidelines.”

As a result, the administration determined that individuals who meet certain guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and may also be eligible for employment authorization.

The issue in Nebraska today is we have young, talented people in Nebraska with DACA temporary relief who are allowed to stay here and obtain work permits, but our state is refusing to allow them to apply for a driver’s license. In Nebraska, it can be hard or nearly impossible to get to work without a car. Why would we want to limit their abilities to work and contribute?

Immigration in Nebraska

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