Tallgrass prairie once blanketed more than 170 million acres from Texas to Canada. Today, just four percent of the United States’ original tallgrass prairie habitat remains.
So, what happened to it all?
Most of the habitat was converted to farmland in the 19th century to feed Americans. But during this expansion, the Flint Hills of Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma was left untouched. It’s geology made it unsuitable for farming, with its shallow soil and limestone.
Since that time, ranchers have worked the Flint Hills landscape in a way that has preserved the prairie. In the springtime, the Flint Hills is nothing but lush, green, vibrant grass far as the eye can see. People on nighttime flights have mistaken tallgrass prairie for a large, wavy body of water!
Wildflowers in bloom in the Flint Hill Legacy Conservation Area, which was authorized by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2010 and established as a Refuge System unit in eastern Kansas last September. Photo: Greg Kramos/USFWS