TogetherGreen Innovation Grant

Spring Creek PrairieSpring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and its partners, Doane College, Crete Public Schools Special Programs, and Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, are the recipients of $45,400 in TogetherGreen Innovation Grants funding, provided through an alliance between National Audubon Society and Toyota. This program provides financial support for projects that use innovative approaches and technologies to engage new and diverse audiences in conservation and tackle pressing conservation problems.

Little House on the Prairie? Laura, Mary and Carrie running down a slope through grasses? If you can imagine grasses like big bluestem, and flowers such as prairie sunflowers, standing over 5 feet tall - far above the sisters - then you have a more accurate image of the tallgrass prairie in which the Ingalls family lived. Although the Ingalls would have been able to see miles and miles of tallgrass prairie (in 1869), such prairie is now hard to find amidst the corn and bean fields of Nebraska. Between 1862 and 1900, nearly all of the tallgrass was converted to farmland. Today, less than 2 percent remains in North America.

For the past 12 years, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center has been working on tallgrass prairie conservation, including restoring and preserving its 808-acres of remnant tallgrass prairie. With an Innovation Grant, they will reach out to the nearby town of Crete, Nebraska, to establish a tallgrass prairie club to foster prairie stewardship and produce on-the-ground conservation results. In partnership with Crete Public Schools Special Programs and Doane College, Spring Creek Prairie will recruit 40 participants for a club that will be intergenerational and multi-racial. (In 20 years, Crete's population has gone from less than 1 percent to more than 35 percent Hispanic/Latino.) A mentoring component of the club will help draw even more community members into the project.

Eight slots have been reserved for Doane students to participate as Prairie Students in the Nature Club. The club meets monthly and transportation from the Doane campus to the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center is provided. Contact Dr. Brad Elder at 826-8587 for details.

Furthermore, Spring Creek Prairie will collaborate with the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to implement a prairie-focused youth summer camp. (The Ponca tribe is one of the four indigenous tribes of Nebraska.) This project is an opportunity for tribal youth to forge a stronger connection to their heritage. These youth will create a willow blind (for wildlife-viewing) and enhance wetland habitat that has been degraded by willow intrusion.

Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center's Innovation Grant will result in new, local, dedicated prairie stewards - of many ages and many races. With their help, we can preserve this rare ecosystem for generations to come. Perhaps then, the children of the tallgrass prairie will have a better chance at knowing, experiencing and loving the tallgrass prairies.

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