The Buffalo Commons

Here’s an idea that should be embraced and championed by all earth repair advocates: The Buffalo Commons.

The Buffalo Commons is a conceptual proposal to create a vast nature preserve by returning 139,000 square miles (360,000 km2) of the drier portion of the Great Plains to native prairie, and by reintroducing the buffalo, or American Bison, that once grazed the short grass prairie.

The proposal originated with Frank J. Popper and Deborah Popper, who argued in a 1987 essay (PDF) that the current use of the drier parts of the plains for agriculture is not sustainable. The authors viewed the historic European-American settlement of the Plains States as hampered by lack of understanding of the ecology and an example of the "Tragedy of the Commons". Many people in potentially affected states resisted the concept during the 1990s:

There once were over 400 million acres of wild prairie grasslands in the central part of North America. The backbone of the Buffalo Commons movement is the work — over a period of decades — to re-establish and re-connect prairie wildland reserves and ecological corridors large enough for bison and all other native prairie wildlife to survive and roam freely, over great, connected distances, while simultaneously restoring the health and sustainability of our communities wherever possible so that both land and people may prosper for a very long time. Future generations may choose to expand these reserves and corridors, as the new culture of caring and belonging we have started today becomes an integral, ingrained part of life in the world of tomorrow, especially as extensive grasslands become needed to help absorb carbon from the atmosphere. (Highly biodiverse native prairies are excellent carbon sequesters.) – Buffalo Commons

It’s fascinating material and an idea worth entertaining, to say the least. The Poppers propose that a significant portion of the region be gradually shifted from farming and ranching use. They envision an area of native grassland, of perhaps 10 or 20 million acres (40,000 or 80,000 km²) in size.

Further Reading: