When viewed from the perspective of geological time, the
advancing settlers took only a moments pause at the edge of
the prairie to consider the advantages and disadvantages of their
settlement. It was a brief moment in the lifetime of an ecosystem
that had developed over the last 6 to 8 thousand years. Then, with
breath-taking rapidity, the people conquered an entire landscape.
The Grand Prairie in Illinois was settled within 10 to 20 years
between 1830 and 1850, and converted to cropland. The story was
much the same throughout the entire tallgrass prairie from Kentucky
to Oklahoma (Smith, 1990). Today, approximately 3% of the 240
million acres of the original tallgrass prairie are still intact
(Smith, 1990), and in Illinois, only 0.01% of the original prairie
remains. Prairies once existed in all but a handful of the
southernmost counties of Illinois (Anderson, 1970) and had a total
coverage of 22 million acres (Roberston, Tallgrass Prairie Page,
Iverson, et al., 1989). Less than 2500 acres of good quality
prairie exist today. That alone is reason enough to remain
dedicated to the restoration of the tallgrass prairie.
"Life is short, but Art is long."