Members of the non-profit group Nature Manitoba (formerly the Manitoba Native Plant Society) were the primary hosts, and they made the conference one to remember. With 225 people registered, the conference didn't set any attendance records, but what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality.
In the keynote addresses we were captivated by the gripping personal story of hardship, tragedy, and discovery on the grasslands of Saskatchewan by author Sharon Butala.
The wit and wisdom of Canadian Candace Savage, another keynote speaker, showed why her scholarly book on the natural history of the North American Prairie turned out to be anything but dry.
David Young, another Canadian, wove human history into the story of the prairies with an account of the Selkirk settlers.
These Canadians are a literate bunch!
Not to be outdone, Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, Salina, Kans., and the hopeful father of a new green revolution based on the prairie model, was as articulate and inspirational as at past prairie conferences where he's spoken.
Keeping conference goers hopping from one building to another on the University of Manitoba campus were more than 40 oral presentations on new research findings in ecological restoration.
|Volunteer big bluestem enhances a monument to the |
Manitoba Tall Press Prairie Preserve.
Delegates (from left):
Daryl Smith, Iowa, and Mike Pekarek, Ohio.
One of the bus tours took us into the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in the Red River Valley, where we saw the results of years of land aquisitions and painstaking renewal work by the Manitoba prairie community. This mostly volunteer effort, bolstered by charitable donations, has resulted in the preservation of 12,000 acres of tall grass prairie in the Red River Valley. Catching everyone's eye was a granite monument commemorating the Preserve. A clump of big bluestem grew from a crack in the giant glacial remnant as if it didn't want to be left out. The prairie never ceases to amaze.
It was just one of the many highlights at the 23rd edition of the North American Prairie Conference. We came away charged up to restore and protect native ecosystems no matter which boundaries they cross.