Arguably, true wilderness is gone. In Iowa, the tallgrass prairie as a functioning ecosystem is gone. What virgin prairie remains exists because a decision was made long ago to spare it from destruction. Today, tallgrass prairie restorations are are carefully “placed” wherever allowed, either by private land owners or government conservation departments. Permission to exist must still be granted by man. Native tallgrass prairie no longer colonizes new areas by natural means. In many ways, any tallgrass prairie area today is like a zoo; viable only within the confines of the space it is given to exist by man. Held at bay by plowing and potent herbicides and dependent on man to maintain it with fire.
But it doesn’t have to be so. That tallgrass prairie be relegated to a “zoo”. Efforts are under way to bring back functioning tallgrass prairie ecosystems large enough to be self sustaining. The real challenge for such projects is convincing an indifferent public that the tallgrass prairie deserves a second chance. The general public is indifferent about the prairie because it was gone before most were born. People do not miss the prairie, because they never knew it existed in the first place. It’s hard to preach the gospel of prairie preservation and reconstruction to a public where Big Bluestem is as foreign as an obscure plant from some foreign land.