As the sun fades and the evening turns crisp and cool , I stand alone near Prairie Branch Creek in the old, open country silence and wonder how the original prairie might have looked at this spot.
How tall was the grass? How varied were the displays of the great wild flowers? And how many bison, elk, and prairie wolves passed through here for thousands of years before they were all shot or poisoned to death – prior to John Deere’s plow that broke and destroyed that 10,000 year old prairie sod and let wash away that ancient soil?
“Texas is losing its open lands faster than any other state in the nation”, and “in the last decade”, according to the Texas Land Conservancy, “Texas lost a staggering 3,000,000 acres of open land to the pressures of development.” That’s 3,000,000 acres less of watershed protection in those last 10 years, and as land fragmentation continues to increase, water quality continues to decrease. We can have all the high-tech water treatment plants in the world, but we’ll never have truly clean water so long as we keep destroying open space. And prairies are the best water filtration systems in the world.
At the basic level, all of this information is nothing new. It only seems new and astounding to those who are just now opening their eyes to the loss of our native floral and faunal biodiversity. We professional land stewards keep telling people these same facts in varying degrees of severity over and over. It is up to them to listen and take notice, and when they don’t and we’re all left with no more natural lands, all we can do is say, “I told you so.”
“Without a complex knowledge of one’s place, and without the faithfulness to one’s place on which such knowledge depends, it is inevitable that the place will be used carelessly and eventually destroyed.”
-Wendell Berry, A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural, 1972
*Over 85% of the original Cross Timbers vegetation and wildlife have been lost due to agricultural uses, housing subdivisions, introduction of exotic species, and overgrazing.