A husband and wife who are the primary backers of a plan to create a vast nature preserve in the nation’s midsection spoke in Sioux City this week. Frank and Deborah Popper talked about their concept of the Buffalo Commons at Briar Cliff University.
The Poppers propose creating the huge, natural area of prairie on the Great Plains where the human population is decreasing. Deborah Popper says people are more accepting of the idea now than in the past.
“There is a real network of people interested in restoring prairie,” she says. “I don’t think that’s a wacky thing to spend time doing. There are a whole variety of people who are quite intent on decreasing inputs in agriculture.” The Poppers went public with the idea in 1987.
Frank Popper, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, says they have changed some of their ideas relating to government intervention with the Buffalo Commons. The federal government is now the main agent to create the area, something that’s never happened before. In the past, he says, the idea was backed by farmers and ranchers, Native Americans, non-governmental agencies, media mogul Ted Turner and even some state governments — every possible organization except the federal government.
Deborah Popper says technology hasn’t directly affected the Buffalo Commons concept, but it helps the agricultural community have less of an impact on the land.
She says technology may help farmers to spray less, for example, as she says agriculture continues to adapt technology which allows it to make some shifts. With the current population decline across much of that rural area, the Poppers say cattle herds are being converted into buffalo herds in many plains states.
The Buffalo Commons concept calls for returning 139,000 square miles of the Great Plains to native prairie and reintroducing the buffalo. The proposal would affect parts of ten states: Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton