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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Wild Things: an updated history

So far as we’ve heard, there’s nothing else like it on the planet – well over a thousand experts volunteer stewards, citizen scientists, activists, conservation professionals, and "the ecologically curious" getting together for a region’s nature – a grass roots conference – organized by the grass roots.

These days it’s called “WILD THINGS – a conference for people and nature.” But this treasured event goes back to the mid seventies and, under various names, has been put together with volunteer leadership every two years ever since, decade after decade.

This biennial “happening” was started by two students of Aldo Leopold and Jens Jensen in 1975. These early leaders, Doug and Dot Wade, also happen to have been the first people to advocate for what’s now called Nachusa Grasslands.

Doug Wade was director of Northern Illinois University’s “Taft Field Campus” near Oregon, Illinois. He liked the North American Prairie Conference (also first held in north central Illinois) but thought it was too academic and removed from the public. So in 1975, he and a few others launched something humbly called “The Northern Illinois Prairie Workshop.” They gave it a modest name on purpose. Wade and friends did not want it to be an exercise of lofty professors reading papers. They did want both professors and people with dirt under their fingers thinking together. They sought give and take among whoever had the most to offer. 

It was a time when people like Robert Betz and Ray Schulenberg were inspiring people with “prairie fever.” Activists were motivating colleges, public schools, forest preserves, and individuals to find, save, and plant prairies.

Wade convinced his field campus to sponsor that first workshop – but they hit a snag with the administration on projected numbers. The price was designed to just break even – and include lunch – but the administrators said that then he had to promise at least fifty participants. He was nervous about whether anyone would come, but made the commitment, and when the registration reached 150 people, he was told to close registration. That was all the lunches the facility could handle. Wade then broadcast the news: “Registration is still open. But from now on, bring your own lunch,” and a phenomenon began.

The third workshop was held at Fermilab in 1978. This was the first one in the Chicago region and the first to combine the Wade volunteers with the Betz (NEIU) and Schulenberg (Morton Arb) crowd. Part of the magic was the fancy Fermilab amphitheatre and facilities. The spirit of the day was as ancient as nature and as new as smashing electrons. Floyd Swink gave the keynote – learned, hilarious, filled with local expertise, and given urgency by how fast the prairie was being lost.

One key to the spirit of the workshops was the coming together of communities. Dot Wade had established Illinois’ first prairie nursery and bookstore. She and many dedicated volunteers sold the books, erected displays, and made new people feel welcome. Another motive force carried on from the first meetings was the participatory “workshop” mentality.

The Fermilab event inspired and changed many Chicago area lives. Every two years thereafter, Doug campaigned in the planning committee meetings (as did others) that we needed discussion, creativity, interchange in the sessions. The workshops creatively changed with the times. One celebrated the newly completed the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory and the campaign to save those last 610 natural areas -  now including not just prairies but also wetlands, forests, and savannas. This workshop was called “The Precious Few” – starting a pattern of name changes as needed.

(I wonder if anyone has a complete collection of “Proceedings” and programs. It would lend itself to some interesting analysis.)

When some people figured out that our tallgrass savannas and open oak woodlands had been misunderstood and largely missed by the Inventory, the conference for one biennum became the Midwest Oak Savanna Conference. 

Another big change came when The Nature Conservancy hired some of the leaders and began to provide staff help. Crucially, the staff involved came out of the Wade-inspired movement, and the biennial workshops/conferences continued in much the same format. That is, after one big “keynote” – we would divide into many (these days a dozen) simultaneous “breakout sessions” that allowed discussion and interaction.

One challenge came when the Conservancy’s grass roots staff mostly moved to Audubon, and Chicago Wilderness was being encouraged to take leadership. But CW turned out to be more interested in conferences for professionals on weekdays. During those times, Audubon staff and others scrambled to hold together the volunteer stewards groups, educational programs, intern support, and many other components of the broader community, including the big grass roots conferences. Audubon renamed the workshop/conference “Wild Things – a Chicago Wilderness conference for people and nature.”

Then Audubon, like Nature Conservancy, went in a different direction. 2015 was the first time in many years that the conference didn’t have staff support from Audubon or the Conservancy. But many of the people who’d organized everything in recent years rose to the occasion. They found Friends of the Forest Preserves to be the fiscal agent for 2015 and again in 2017.

In 2015, 1,300 people attended. In 2017 we moved to a larger venue and, for the first time, registration was closed when 1700 tickets had been sold – a limit imposed by the fire marshal. Many people who wanted to come could not. Indeed we stopped advertising. It would not be unreasonable to speculate that 2,500 people would have attended if space had been available.

As the conference has expanded, many of the breakout sessions, often including 100 or more people, have been less able to follow up presentations with seminar/workshop participatory discussions. We look forward to a future with more evolution and changes. If you would like to offer suggestions or help plan the next conference, please do. You can leave suggestions as comments on this post. Or you can leave them directly with the Wild Things community at: 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Campaigns to Save Oak Animals

Seventy wildlife conservationists met at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on January 31, 2017 for a Chicago Wilderness campaign to save a dozen Priority Species of the region’s critical habitats. This initiative is headed by 28 agencies and organizations. Goals includes measurable improvements in numbers and habitats for all 12 species in five years and beyond.

Species were chosen for their "geographic/biological" significance. In other words, "How important is work here to the future of this species?"

This post focuses on four of the priority species that live in oak savannas and woodlands:

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee 
Blue-spotted Salamander
Smooth Green Snake
Red-headed Woodpecker

Of course, saving the habitats for these species, if done well, will also conserve hundreds of other species of rare animals and plants.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee 

This large furry bee was common in our prairies and savannas but has decreased by 95% (nationwide) in recent years. It is the first bee given Endangered status by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 

Local trends and threats are poorly known. If you (or volunteers you’re in touch with) might be willing to learn to recognize these bees, search for them, and report findings - go to Bee Spotter:

Allen Lawrence of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum explained that bumble bees are especially good pollinators of some plant species because of their impressive “buzz pollination” abilities. They unhinge their wings and buzz to shake off large amounts of pollen that lesser bees don’t get.

Lawrence listed three threats to this species:
- pathogen spillover 
- habitat quality
- sub-lethal effects of pesticides

The big surprise here was the threat of pathogen spillover from commercial bumble bees. There has been a steady increase in the commercial rearing of bumble bees for pollination. This has not always been a blessing. Farmers are allowed to transport commercially-reared bumblebees onto their land, for pollinating crops. 
This has spread diseases, with consequences for local populations of wild bees. The Xerces Society submitted a petition to the USDA requesting laws to protect wild bumble bees from disease by regulating the movement and health of commercial bumblebees. You can read more about this issue on this page and this one.

The habitat quality problem is the result of invasives, of course. If buckthorn shades out all the flowers, the bees lose the diverse food sources they depend on. Thus, “SAVE THE RUSTY PATCH” is one more good reason to restore and maintain diverse prairies and savannas. 

Is there any place where politics doesn’t rear its ugly head? When the Fish & Wildlife rep at this meeting was asked if Donald Trump’s recent decree would block the agency from regulating threats to this Federal endangered species, he said, “Yes.” But that shouldn’t stop us from voluntary work to protect this species in yards and forest preserves, as Chicago Wilderness proposes. And that’s the main help this deserving bee needs anyway. 

Smooth Green Snake

Fairly common until recently, this soft and gentle snake is recognized in Illinois as a Species in Greatest Conservation Need. It is on the Endangered list in Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio. 

It has been found in 25 Chicago Wilderness locations in the past five years, but researchers have found nest failure rates ranging from 42 to 86% over the last three seasons.  Of the failed nests, 70% of failure was due to abiotic conditions like desiccation or mold. The other "~20-30% was due to predation (typically by insects) or unknown fate," according to team leader Allison Sacerdote-Velat also of Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.  The conservation team is also concerned about unscrupulous collectors stealing snakes as pets as well as the spread of snake fungal disease. Research is under way to determine best management practices for green snake habitats.

Why such a high nest failure? One possible culprit is the lack of large diameter rotting logs, which keep the eggs moist and hidden. To increase this species’ odds in the short run, three agencies (DuPage, Lake, and McHenry Forest Preserve and Conservation Districts) do what they call "head-starting." A Head Start Program for smooth green snakes consists of incubating and hatching out the eggs - either through captive breeding or through collection and protection of "wild nests or wild-sired nests" to assure that eggs don’t desiccate and die - or go down the gullets of predators. Young snakes released into good quality prairie or savanna habitat are thought to do well.

To help monitor this species, citizen-scientists are encouraged to record sightings on Herp-Mapper at:  It's important to click “mask location” so that the data can't be used by poachers. At present, the smooth green snake project doesn’t have a designated project page for this part of the effort. It is planned for the coming year. Then the information will automatically go to the research team, which may get in touch with you for follow-up.

Red-headed Woodpecker

This flashy woodpecker was also common a century ago. But it declined by over 2% per year from 1966 to 2014, resulting in a cumulative decline of 70%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Worse, it has been declining at 5% per year in the Chicago region. That can go on only so long, if sustainable populations are to survive. The red-head is “a signature species of a singular habitat” according to John Legge of Illinois Nature Conservancy. Like a great many other plant and animal species that depend on oak woodlands and savannas, this one is threatened by habitat loss due to excess shade from invasive species, both native and non-native. According to Legge, “In my experience many people hear ‘invasives’ and only think of non-native invasives, but in oak systems invasion by sugar maples (and other species more typical of non-oak communities) due to lack of fire and other disturbance are as much of an issue.”

Legge sees this flashy woodpecker as a symbol of oak ecosystem recovery. “This is a species that responds well as oak habitats are opened up,” he said. 

The Bird Conservation Network’s Breeding Bird Survey has helped establish recent trends and nesting sites.

Legge recommends a good summary of one of the more notable regional efforts to recover oak woodland habitat that would benefit this species along with many others at:

Many conservationists focus on publicly owned land, but Legge pointed out that 70% of oak systems in our region are on private land, so private landowners with oak habitat can potentially do a lot for the species.  A good summary of a broad regional approach is the CW Oak Ecosystem recovery plan, which is dense but has good info: 

The CW Priority Species page for the Red-headed Woodpecker has some fun and cute contributions to outreach on this species:

Blue-spotted Salamander

“These salamanders may be locally common by perception. But perception may be wrong,” said team leader John Crawford of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.

Key threats are the loss of ephemeral ponds and adjacent oak woodland habitat. Blue-spotted salamanders are excellent indicators of the health of ponds and adjacent woodlands. As with the woodpeckers, saving the salamanders goes hand-in-hand with restoring the health of the whole ecosystem.

At Somme Woods in 2015, forest preserve volunteers noticed that large numbers of salamanders were dying from road salt. Forest preserve conservation staff then implemented a program that successfully protected the amphibians and the ponds from salt in 2016 and 2017. Yes, friends of nature. With a little effort, conservation works!

For more on the salamanders of Somme Woods, check out: 

For more on the Priority Species program, check out:

Chicago Wilderness Priority Species Campaign

The eight other species and their habitats:

Blandings turtle – prairie marshes
Bobolink – moist prairies and marshes (especially those burned frequently)
Henslow’s sparrow – rank prairies (that aren't burned annually)
Ellipse mussel – cool streams
Little brown bat – caves, hollow trees, and air with flying insects
Monarch – prairies, savannas, gardens, and anywhere that milkweed grows and flowers bloom
Mottled sculpin – clean streams
Regal fritillary – prairies with specialized violets (especially bird's foot and arrow-leaved violets)

Priority Species Campaign Lead Partners: 
Audubon Great Lakes| The Field Museum | Illinois Audubon Society| Illinois Natural History Survey | Lake County Forest Preserves | Lincoln Park Zoo | National Great Rivers Research and Education Center | lllinois Nature Conservancy | Openlands | Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Advisors: Chicago Botanic Garden | Forest Preserve District of Kane County | Shedd Aquarium | US Forest Service


Thanks to Allison Sacerdote-Velat and John Legge for providing additional input for this post.

The photos in this post are from the Chicago Wilderness website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bison Hypotheses

I was chided, rebuked, and otherwise treated to emotions by responses to two bison posts. I had celebrated the arrival of bison at Nachusa Grasslands – one of the great suspense-filled dramas and triumphs of contemporary conservation.  

Very quickly there emerged pro and con.

Many people quickly expressed a zeal for finding creative ways to get bison to their favorite Illinois prairies – as if a quality grassland couldn’t properly thrive without grazing. Opponents expressed passionate concern that “big stompy beasts” would destroy our last, precious prairie remnants.
Bison now graze part of Nachusa Grasslands. Will they wreck that part - or improve it? Or what?
So, to tackle the first question first:  

Do we need big grazers to have “real” and thriving prairies?

In my first bison post, I tried to convey the special and radical nature of the Nachusa experiment. Here’s a rehash of that footnote, upgraded now to main text:

Some people have criticized the restoration of plains bison (known scientifically as Bison bison) as “unnatural.” It is true that the eastern tallgrass prairie seems to have had Bison bison grazing it in large numbers only for only a couple of hundred years. Archeologists had wondered why they found few bison bones at Illinois Native American sites. Odder still, at the very oldest sites (10K+ years ago) they found many bones of two other species of extinct bison (Bison latifrons and Bison occidentalis) along with mammoth and mastodon bones.

As evidence mounted, a consensus developed that the eastern tallgrass prairie was so productive a habitat that the original Native American populations rapidly became too great for the coexistence with megafauna. Mammoths and Bison latifrons had evolved in prairies for millions of years – before the arrival of the crafty omnivorous humans. New to the continent at that time, human beings with the (stone) technology to hunt large mammals rapidly killed off the tallgrass megafauna. One smaller species of bison, the plains bison, survived in the sparsely inhabited western plains. Those bison that European explorers saw in Illinois had come east only after 1492 when European diseases began to reduce Native American populations drastically, some say by 90%.

Then after a couple hundred years of plains bison on the Illinois prairie, in the 1800s, the crafty omnivorous Euro-Americans drove Bison bison back to the plains once again. But almost all the plants and animals of the tallgrass prairie are much older than a few thousand years. They didn’t live here when this land was under glacial ice, but they perpetuated their kind on prairies that retreated south. Bison and a large proportion of other tallgrass plant and animal species evolved through the 2.6M years of the Pleistocene. One study suggested that most grassland bird species today are a few hundred thousand years old – evolving from earlier forms. 

Lurking in this history, as I perceive it, are two contrasting perspectives - both of which seem true to me. First, Illinois prairie remnants do not need bison to survive and thrive as healthily as they had for ten thousand years.  Second, bison are of great value at Nachusa if we hope to replicate how the  prairie species interacted for most of their millions of years of evolution. A consideration of these two contrasting but compatible perspectives also leads to questions about “the meaning of nature” – which we’ll get to a few paragraphs down (if your attention lasts that long).

For the last few thousand years our prairies may have evolved and flourished here with few large grazers. But evolutionarily, ten thousand years is a short time. Before the coming of people, the ancestors of prairie plants and animals flourished over much of North America, including what is now Illinois, with many large grazers playing a key role, as have world’s grasslands generally, for millions of years.  

Range Wars on Missouri Tallgrass

A lot of the “bison negative” comments originated from a long-running conflict in Missouri. Prairies on state conservation land there were said to be damaged by poorly managed cattle and bison. I tried to check out those reports.

Apparently the only "data" available were photographs. That seemed odd to me, since the critics were scientists, who you’d expect would have scientific sampling data. A photo, taken of a high-quality prairie in 1995, showed many coneflowers and coreopsis in bloom. A second photo, said to have been taken after over-grazing by cattle, at the same place and time of year in 2010, showed few flowers.

I had asked one knowledgeable scientist about those photos and was told that some people had panicked about some temporary impacts – but that after a few years the apparently overgrazed prairies were as healthy and diverse as ever. Perhaps I gave too much credence to that opinion?

Thus, I was disappointed to see the Nachusa experiment attacked on the basis of apparent misinformation. Yes, an experiment as bold as Nachusa's should welcome challenges and debate. But I kept hearing reference to out-and-out, proven calamities in Missouri. Was it needless panic or sure proof? Who was right?
In Nachusa's former corn fields, such quality plants as pale purple coneflower and white prairie clover
 now bloom in huge numbers over hundreds of acres. Too many cows can reduce or eliminate
 such conservative forbs. At Nachusa, bison seem to avoid them, so far. 
Ecosystem conservation is still in its “battlefield medicine” stage. As conscientiously as we pursue scientific decision-making, many questions are necessarily answered on the basis of “best available information and judgment.” Experts disagree, even on some of the fundamentals. Thus we experiment with and compare varying approaches, using the best data we can get.

There had long been conflict among Missouri conservationists about grazing prairies. Some good people argued that, if we are to retain large enough grasslands for rare prairie animal populations, our continent needs to retain the vast prairie acreages that survive only on private lands, owned by ranchers for grazing cattle. Conservation agencies and the government don’t have remotely enough land, so we conservationists need to be cooperative and friendly with the grazing industry.

No one disagreed with that goal, but biodiversity conservationists sometimes criticized some conservation agencies for taking “cooperation and friendliness” too far. It turns out that the Missouri Department of Conservation had decided to experimentally replicate bison grazing on high quality Niawathe Prairie with experimental patch-burn grazing by cattle.

Many government and private agencies have been developing techniques and expertise on patch-burn grazing (PBG). Some experiments showed PBG to be good for prairie birds and good for getting the most beef per acre. Some people had extrapolated those results to “PBG is best for cows, best for the soil, and best for biodiversity.” But there seems to be little data on that biodiversity question for high quality prairies in the eastern tallgrass region. Perhaps it will turn out that PBG is best for some rare species and not for others. The fundamental idea of biodiversity conservation is to save all the species, alleles, and ecosystem types, and it’s likely that a variety of approaches will work better than “one size fits all.”

 (The patch-burn grazing hypothesis is that over time the animals and plants will thrive, as grazed and un-grazed patches move around the landscape, because this was how this community evolved for millions of years.)

In response to the controversy, Doug Ladd, science director of the Missouri Nature Conservancy, wrote an eight page report discussing when and where grazing was compatible with biodiversity conservation. One of his summary statements was,
“Grazing … in … high quality prairies should be accompanied by disciplined, repeatable, dispassionate monitoring protocols … that document … the degree to which the most sensitive, least replaceable elements of the system are being sustained. These data should be available to provide adaptive management feedback on an ongoing basis.” 

Missouri DOC vs. Nachusa TNC

As I researched, I came across an impressive YouTube presentation by influential Missouri biologist Paul Nelson. He was alarmed by what he had seen cows do at Niawathe (and expressed concern about what bison might be doing at Regal Prairie). High-quality prairie species were being replaced by weedy, grazing-resistant ones, he said. He had once supported the concept of experimental grazing by cattle and bison, but he now believed that a worthwhile experiment had run amok.

In the YouTube video, Nelson was addressing a Missouri Academy of Sciences audience, including many prairie conservation advocates. He spoke to the politics of the situation. “What makes prairie management a challenge is that different managers and the public at large have different reasons or needs for management,” he said. Hunters, birdwatchers, cattle ranchers, and biodiversity conservationists all have desires to be satisfied on Missouri’s public lands. “There is diverse ownership with all these conflicting values.” 

Then he described a drama. After biologist Don Kurz disseminated a 45-page report critical of grazing by cows at Niawathe, conservationists raised their voices and got results. As Nelson put it:

“I am really proud and pleased to know that very quickly so many environmental interest groups and individuals rose up because of their concerns ... People are still sensitive to what we do and don’t do to manage some of the best high quality natural areas in the state.

Those who wrote letters included the Joplin Environmental Task Force, an Audubon society, a Nature Study Society, Missouri Native Plant Society, and, especially influential, an agency that had been one of the most ardent supporters of grazing, the Missouri Prairie Foundation.

When the Missouri Department of Conservation put PBG cows on Niawathe and bison on Regal Prairie, they did it as an experiment. They committed to take data and analyze the results. These may have been among the first times that patch-burn-grazing was employed on a high-quality tallgrass prairie. It was an important experiment. Surely by 2017 there would be well-analyzed data available to the scientific community and the interested public. Yet I could not find a published reference. I wrote to the agencies concerned and got no reply.

Nelson warned that on public lands, administrations change, and those new administrations might be dangerous to the ecosystem. He told his audience, “You have to have advocates – of scientists and organizations like you – to make sure that during those times of organizational change that managers are held accountable.”

Nelson’s 2010 talk assured the audience that an expert team was putting together an improved research plan. But now it’s seven years later. Is there no urgency to make better decisions on the basis of data and analysis?
How does the Missouri experience compare with Nachusa? The apparently troubled Missouri grazing experiments have had to deal with influential interest groups, politicians, and politics. The Nachusa decisions are being made entirely by conservationists, on the basis of science. (Of course the prairies too are quite different - on the richer Illinois soils compared to the ancient, unglaciated soils of southern Missouri.)

At Nachusa, many years of detailed study preceded the first nibble by the first bison. The accumulated data covers:
  • Plant communities: 22 fenced-off grazing exclosures with transects inside and outside each fence – plus over 100 additional permanent transects
  • Data on endangered plant populations including the prairie bushclover and prairie white-fringed orchid
  • Breeding bird transects and “point counts”
  • A number of long-term studies of invertebrate animals
  • Telemetry tracking of ornate box turtles and Blandings turtles
  • Snake monitoring transects

Nachusa manager Bill Kleiman is proud of the level of science under way at Nachusa, but he wants more. “We have about two dozen researchers out here, with science ramping up year after year.  Our Nachusa science budget is ten-fold what it was five years ago. But we still have more monitoring we would like to do.” It likely will take a couple more years at least before bison impacts, of whatever kinds, will show up in the data.

All the same, it would be great if Illinois could learn more from what happened in Missouri. It would be so helpful to see the best before-and-after data. How has the recovery gone, on the sites where the grazing has been reduced or eliminated? Were conservative plant or animal species lost or badly diminished? Were there other benefits or losses? What is being learned on the sites where the grazing continues?  
At Nachusa, some of the high, dry "grazed out" knobs have recovered to an impressive degree.
Will the buffalo herd reverse that recovery - or speed and improve it yet more?
Overall, the Nachusa experiment with bison is widely seen as ambitious and wise. But how about the small high-quality remnants within it? How are they being monitored, and how are decisions being made about them? Schafer Knob, perhaps the best quality remnant at Nachusa, had long been grazed down to the nubs, and what survived there should survive the worst the bison could do, at very least for a few years. Nachusa, of course, will not see the worst the bison could do. Good science and a large caring community of stewards will see to that. And then, most of Nachusa is not remnants; it is thousands of acres of former cornfields, sowed to prairie and now being grazed by bison. Indeed, that’s where these megafauna graze most.  
Twenty-two exclusion fences will help Nachusa monitors study the impacts of bison - pro, con, and otherwise. 
What will these experiments teach us about nature? This is the era on planet Earth that people are calling the Anthropocene. We the people, by necessity, make the decisions on which nature depends. We decide so much, on so many levels:
  • “How often and under what conditions will nature burn?”
  • “In the absence of wolves, should conservationists cull deer?”
  • “Will we bother to go to the hard work of restoring mega-fauna (like bison)?”
  • “Should a given preserve have 50 bison? Or 250? Or how many?”
  • “Should endangered species get extra care, or allowed to go belly up?”

In fact, these discussions remind us that as we learn, we continually need to grapple with yet more abstract questions: “What is a natural area?” “What is nature?” “What are our goals as conservationists?” We need answers because we have to make decisions.
The Midwestern natural areas programs in the 1970s launched something new on the planet. We hypothesized that certain little patches of rare plants represented “original nature.” The hypothesis expanded to a prediction that these areas would thrive if not disturbed in the future. We quickly learned that caring for little nature preserves would require a lot more work than we thought.
Over time, many conservationists became concerned that we were too exclusively focused on areas rich with rare plants, but too small for conservation of most animal communities, with which the plants were ultimately interdependent. Yes, our originally conserved “natural areas” are precious and crucial. They deserve respect and care (indeed, better care than they’re getting, in many cases). But so also do our larger areas deserve respect and care, where the goal is to restore as much of nature’s full dynamics as possible.
Stewards control invasive weeds on Dot's Knob. There may never have been a large grassland
with as much stewardship help as Nachusa. But every steward agrees, it deserves more. 
One great source of learning will be the large, well-managed, grazed and ungrazed grasslands at Nachusa (and comparable large and small efforts in so many places). Fun! Stay tuned! Or join in!
Flannery, Tim. The Eternal Frontier. 2001. Grove Press. Includes a good summary of the deep history of North American grasslands and their grazers.

Ladd, Doug. “Patch Burn Grazing and Missouri Tallgrass Prairies – The Nature Conservancy’s Perspective.”  January 2011
Paul Nelson. YouTube Video of a speech to the Missouri Academy of Sciences.
“Patch Burn Grazing: Is It Right for Missouri’s Remaining High Quality Prairies?”

“Nachusa: Fun People and Ornery Bison”  
“What Would Bison Do?”