June 2015


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).

Equipping Faith Communities to Keep Children and Youth Safe

By Jeanette Harder

When you read headlines about child abuse or neglect, you may feel powerless to help. None of us can protect every child all the time, but we can take steps to protect the children in our homes, churches, and communities. Child abuse and neglect crosses all boundaries of class, ethnicity, education level, and religion. It is the job of adults to do the strong and courageous work of protecting children and youth. We need to pay attention, care, and act.

Faith communities often provide valuable support for people of all ages and all walks of life and are typically great places for children and families. Research shows that faith communities that actively work to address child abuse and neglect exert a highly protective influence upon children in their congregations and in their communities. Whether it’s a church, synagogue, or mosque or a school, child-care facility, or camp, attention to child and youth safety must be paramount.

A Gem in the Great Plains

By Keevin Arent

Stretching across the girth of North America, the Great Plains spreads like a wrestler’s championship belt. In its center, resembling a jewel-laden buckle, lies the Nebraska Sandhills. They certainly are considered a gem by the people who live in, love, and respect them. In terms of geologic time and history they are mere toddlers, barely twenty thousand years old, crawling among the elders of a very distinct family. To the west, the older Rocky Mountain ridge pushes them toward the older features of the Mississippi River, the Appalachians, and the Alleghenies in the east. They are remnants of a clash between the upheaval of greater Rocky Mountains and the grinding of massive glaciers, from the north, over many ages.

The Face of the Niemi Report

The Best-case Nebraska Economy of the Future Depends on Highly Productive Individuals, Not Corporate Headquarters or a Smokestack Industry

We are extremely grateful to Dr. Richard Edwards for his leadership in the founding of the Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition. Moreover, it would not have been possible to publish Natural Treasures of the Great Plains: An Ecological Perspective, a new collection of twenty-six essays originally published in this paper, without his generous financial support. It seems appropriate to reprint our ecotourism essay from the inaugural July 2007 issue of Prairie Fire. Our support and participation in the 2007 economic study (the Niemi Report) calculating the benefits of a focused effort to promote and support ecotourism was one of the themes for our launch eight years ago. In many ways, Natural Treasures is a commemoration of our eight-year journey repeatedly sounding the theme of the many benefits of a strong ecotourism industry, through the trained eyes of our talented essayists. A review of the book will appear in a future issue of Prairie Fire.

By Sally J. Herrin and W. Don Nelson

Joe Hill—early twentieth-century labor organizer and martyr—said it best: Don’t mourn—organize.

By now, everyone knows that the population of most of rural America has declined precipitously over the past few decades, almost entirely due to declining farm income.

Climate, Politics, and Religion

Banksy tag. (RomanyWG https://www.flickr.com/photos/romanywg/4200620700)

By Katharine Hayhoe

New to Texas Tech, it was my first year as an atmospheric science professor. We’d just moved to Lubbock, the second most conservative town in the United States. A colleague asked me to guest teach his undergraduate geology course while he was out of town.

The packed lecture hall was cavernous and dark. Many of the students were glued to their phones; others were slumped over, dozing. I began with the fundamental components of the climate system; I waded through the geologic climate record and ice core data; and finally, I explained natural cycles and the role of carbon dioxide—both natural and human-produced—in controlling Earth’s climate.

I ended my lecture, as many professors do, with a hopeful invitation for any questions. One hand immediately shot up.

Someone had been listening—and cared enough to ask a question! I thought.

The first student stood up. I looked encouraging. He cleared his throat. And then, in a loud and belligerent tone, he stated:

“You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?”

Nebraska Civic Health Strengths: Social Connectedness and Confidence in Institutions

By Kelsey Arends, Dr. Lisa Pytlik Zillig, and Dr. Mitchel Herian

Taking steps to be healthy—it’s something people are encouraged to do every day. Children are told to wash hands, wear helmets, and eat vegetables. Adults are reminded to eat well and exercise regularly. It’s common to do things to improve physical and even mental or emotional health.

Civic health, though, is not a highly discussed topic. Doctors rarely prescribe voting or schedule volunteering checkups. However, as it turns out, civic health is linked to and is an important factor impacting other forms of health.

Sherman Ranch

By William S. Whitney

Years ago my father suggested that I meet a conservation-minded man named Tom Sherman who owned land on the Platte River near Marquette. At the time—in the late 1970s—my wife, Jan, and I had moved back to my hometown of Aurora and were becoming more interested in conservation. I only vaguely remember Tom driving me along his pasture and river lowland meadow. I had not yet developed an eye for the subtle beauty of Hamilton County’s Platte River Bluffs, much less an ecological appreciation and detailed knowledge about the area where I grew up. From that outing, I did, however, remember Tom’s attachment to, and pride in, his land, as well as his desire to take good care of it. That was the extent of our association until the late 1990s when Tom called me to ask if I would be a part of the Bader Park board. Subsequently I saw him more often at park meetings. I still did not know him well but through the park work grew to appreciate his strong fundamental sense of community service, thrift, and pragmatism. He was a steadfast supporter of Bader Park and a smaller park near his land, Tooley Park, which he oversaw for many years. In fact, he was responsible for the creation of Tooley Park as a Hamilton County commissioner in the 1990s (he was also on the Central Platte NRD board in its early days).

Immigration in Nebraska

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