In May 2013, the Missouri Natural Areas Committee nominated 178 acres of her nearly 1,000-acre Prairie View Farm to become a designated Missouri Natural Area. She serves as a volunteer board of directors member for the Missouri Prairie Foundation.
“Mrs. Teel’s prairie is one of fewer than a dozen high-quality limestone prairie remnants left in Missouri. Most remnant prairies in Missouri are overlying sandstone bedrock,” said Mike Leahy, Natural Areas Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The Committee, which is made up of professional biologists, chooses areas to conserve that are considered the best remaining forests, prairies, wetlands, and other natural communities in the state based on their outstanding plant and animal populations, geologic formations, or other high quality natural features.
“I’m so proud of this prairie and honored to steward this land, which has been in my late husband’s family since the early 1880s,” said Mrs. Teel. “I’m happy to have the opportunity to share this beautiful piece of heaven with others who appreciate the natural world.”
Why save the prairies? Fifteen million acres of Missouri used to be covered by tallgrass prairie. Fewer than 90,000 acres remain, because of prairie conversion to row crops and other human development.
Over the past few years, Bonnie Teel has been cutting down trees on her property to make more room for restoring the tallgrass prairie. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, 212 native plant species are known from Prairie View Farm. They hope to discover even more. The tree cutting helps reduce predators that favor wooded areas and decrease shade so that grasses and wildflowers can thrive in wetter areas. Grassland birds like dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows that nest in the prairies can breathe easier.
Throughout Missouri, land conservation groups are working on solutions. One solution is to manage cattle and wildlife grazing to preserve prairie, insects for foraging, and adequate cover from predators. The Audubon’s Upper Mississippi Flyway Program is working directly with landowners, especially beef producers since their grazing methods can impact the survival of ground-nesting birds.
Bonnie Teel’s Prairie View Farm is an example of substantial progress toward much needed restoration efforts. I think it’s admirable when a landowner like Bonnie Teel is encouraged to preserve natural areas and is recognized in such a significant way. This is the type of sustainable community we could stand to see more of in Missouri and elsewhere to promote a balanced environment. In addition, given observed and recorded decreases in soil carbon as a result of the reduction of prairies, the benefits of increasing prairie conservation include an increase in carbon sequestration in soils.
While Missourians are taking the advice of groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists on how to confront climate change and its significant impact on Missouri and individual lives, the conservation of prairie lands is fundamental for increasing the overall health and resilience of existing habitats. By removing invasive plants, restoring native species, and protecting habitats from development and other stress, the recommended steps for the adaptation of prairies to climate change are being taken.
Sticks and stones, but I think Bonnie Teel and the Missouri Natural Areas Committee are a proactive bunch of interesting mindful people who are the kind of movers and shakers making change through coalition building a success that deserve to get a Facebookish thumbs up for building an admirable community.
Sources: Missouri Prairie Journal, Missouri Prairie Foundation, Missouri Conservationist, Audobon Magazine, Carbon Capture: Sequestration and Storage by Ronald E. Hester and Roy M. Harrison, Prairie Ecologist, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists