Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and eastern Colorado are hot and dry. According to the National Weather Service, rain over the last four years, in parts of these states has been less than what fell during a similar period in the 1930s.
Agricultural practices of that era created the dust bowl, and it was considered the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history. Deep plowing of the topsoil combined with severe drought resulted in the prairie winds carrying the soil to New York City in those dirty 30s. Plains residents came down with dust pneumonia from the soil in the air. It was a disaster that affected 100,000,000 acres of topsoil.
The government encouraged conservation by planting trees and in 1937, paid farmers a dollar an acre to practice new farming methods.
Mother Nature made us pay for our lack of knowledge of the earth and complacency prior to the 1930s and she still has tricks up her sleeve for us.
In April, a ferocious dust storm blew into Barton County, shutting down U.S. Highway 56 and causing a multi-vehicle pileup involving over 14 vehicles. If farming practices had stayed stagnant, perhaps the county would have experienced many more of these types of incidents. We are not out of the woods yet and projections are that the drought will last 3-5 more years.
Nature makes us pay whenever we ignore its laws with man-made activity, sometimes decades in the future. Mother Nature will make us pay again whenever we think we know more than she does. Just try stopping a tornado or changing its path.
The lessons of the Dust Bowl are self-evident. An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure, from the big things of nature and to the small things of everyday life.
There has been a huge uproar over listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Until recently, the birds and agriculture peacefully co-existed, but its numbers have dropped precipitously over the past few years.
Mother Nature knows when we neglect the earth and are poor stewards of the animals in it, we’ll pay. It’s not just about us.
There are no lesser prairie chickens in Barton County. One must go west of Hays or west of Pratt. We have greater prairie chickens in this area, and they attract tourism through the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway and Cheyenne Bottoms.
If we don’t save the prairie chicken, we will interrupt the ecological food chain and who knows what the results will be. So then do the red tailed hawk, the fox, bobcats, great horned owl, snakes and badges, who all feed on the prairie chicken, all become extinct too?
According to some, our way of life will be over as we know it if we attempt to save the lesser prairie chicken and have filled the conversation with vitriol. Perhaps the opposite is true and decades from now, we will pay for our shortsightedness if we let the prairie chicken go. Let’s calm down and wait and see.
We need to relearn to work beside nature instead of against it