TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Soon, if you look at the change in your pocket, you could notice a special tribute to a location in the Sunflower State.
The United States Mint is honoring the 11,000 acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City.
It’s part of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program that started in 2010.
Each year the mint releases five new quarters. This is the first time a place in Kansas has been recognized. The Tallgrass Prairie is the 55th of 56 quarters in the program. You can view the entire list here.
The tallgrass prairie is only 4% of its size it once was. It used to cover more than 170 million acres of North America.
“Conserving these grasslands is really important for a number of reasons, it harbors tremendous amount of biodiversity of plants and animals. In Kansas, this is on the flyway for many migratory birds that use this habitat,” said John Blair, a K-State biology professor and director of the Konza Prairie Biological Station.
“Culturally it’s an important part of North American history, in terms of the Native American peoples that lived here prior to European colonization of the country, and then it’s important in terms of the history of the cattle industry and the development of that in this part of the country,” Blair said.
When people began turning the prairie into farmland, it substantially decreased the amount of tallgrass. The changing environments also impact the prairie.
“One of the greatest threats to the remaining tallgrass prairie is actually the spread of trees, and shrubs, and woody vegetation into these areas that were historically grassland,” Blair said. Part of that comes about from a reduction in the frequency in which fires through these areas. So one of the other unique things about a prairie is you can’t just leave it alone to manage it, it requires active management which includes periodic burning and other practices to mimic some of the natural disturbances that were important.”
The coin will be released next Monday. Blair said it could help raise awareness for the prairie, but he has a piece of advice for people that want to know more about it.
“To actually understand the prairie, I think it’s important that you get out and experience it,” Blair said.