Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Interview with Bill Witt: Part 1

What has changed in the prairie world since your first days of photographing these areas? What's better, what's worse?

Foremost are the number of Iowans who now champion our prairies and work to protect, preserve, and restore them. Thirty years ago, there were only a handful of prairie-loving landowners, "old-timers" mostly, and some visionary academics who followed in the footsteps of Hayden, Shimek, and Macbride, and a few younger up-and-comers. Organizations like the Nature Conservancy and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation were just getting a few toe-holds on the landscape and in the public's awareness. But thanks to their persistent good work, tens of thousands of Iowans now know about, appreciate, celebrate, and actively support and take part in prairie protection and management. That's led to the second great outcome: we have rediscovered many thousands of prairie acres that had been "mislaid," forgotten, given up as lost--and we are restoring them to their original diversity and beauty.

The flip side is that as many prairie lands have been "found" and put back into active, restorative ownership, the resources needed to maintain them have gotten stretched thinner. So, in an ironic twist, some smaller, excellent prairie remnants have declined--native species diversity has declined and alien invasives increased--because time and money have been diverted to other prairie projects.

Bill Witt is the photographer of Enchanted by Prairie

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