The Blackland Prairie, part of Texas’ tallgrass prairies, once occupied 12 million acres of Texas, from the Red River near the Oklahoma border, south through Dallas, Waco, Temple, and Austin down to San Antonio. The tall prairie grasses and flowers created extremely rich soils, which led to most of the Blackland Prairie being plowed for agriculture.
Perhaps only one-tenth of one percent of Texas’ beautiful Blackland Prairie remains in native hay meadows or places too rocky to plow, and many of these endangered places are slowly disappearing over time to the plow and development.
There are people who care about the prairie and search for remnants of the Blackland, hoping to find a special piece of what was and experience it as those who first came to Texas did and maybe even protecting some of the ever decreasing gems that remain. Matt White is one of these people, and he tells an incredible tale of both destruction and hope in Prairie Time – A Blackland Portrait.
Matt recounts the natural and human history of the Blackland Prairie, mixing information about settlers, families, Native Americans, animals, birds, and native plants in a very readable account. He tells heartwarming stories of people appreciating and protecting their prairies with land trusts and local governments, and heartbreaking stories of prairies being plowed and destroyed.
As author of Birds of Northeast Texas, Matt also relates the plight of the grassland birds that make the prairie their home and how the destruction of most of the Blackland Prairie has affected them. The tragedy of the Prairie Chicken and the declining populations of Le Conte’s Sparrow, Bell’s Vireo, and other grassland birds raise the alarm of habitat loss and the effect of the prairie’s destruction upon wildlife.
Matt also lets us experience the excitement of finding out about previously unknown hay meadows and, along with other prairie friends (many of whose names which you may recognize and know), meeting the owners and seeing the prairie remnant for the first time. He also describes many of the protected prairies, telling us about the special native plants, animals, and birds that live there.
Matt ends with a statement of hope, inspiring us to protect as many pieces of the Blackland Prairie that remain and that more rare gems of native prairie may be waiting for us to discover them.
Prairie Time – A Blackland Portrait by Matt White is highly recommended, especially to anyone interested in prairies, native plants, birds, wildlife, natural and Texas history, environmentalism, and conservation.
To learn more about Texas prairies, visit the Native Prairies Association of Texas at http://texasprairie.org/ or contact: Native Prairies Association of Texas, 2002 – A Guadalupe St. PMB 290, Austin, TX 78705-5609 .