Natural Treasures of the Great Plains: An Ecological Perspective is a compilation of 26 essays written by 24 authors designed to promote ecotourism in the Great Plains. There are many areas in nature that are often hidden in plain sight, and the authors use their personal perspective to make the readers aware of these opportunities to encounter nature in its rawest form.
The book is divided into four sections. The first section, "People and Places," is composed of seven essays and takes a historical approach to the Great Plains. The second section, "Grasslands and Savannas," also contains seven essays. This section focuses on the few native types of grassland that remain in the region. The third section is titled "Forest, Rivers, and Wetlands." These six essays provide personal stories about the authors' interactions with these habitats. Finally, the last section, "Plants and Animals," gives the reader a glimpse of flora and fauna unique to the region and illustrates how some habitats within the Great Plains are critical to their survival.
The personal stories presented in this volume are an outstanding means to engage the reader, especially a reader who has visited some of the places described in this book. Having personally visited many of the areas discussed in this collection of essays, I found it easy to visualize the authors' experiences. The main focus of the book is to promote ecotourism. This, however, can be a tricky endeavor. Part of what makes the ecology of the Great Plains fascinating for some is the fact that places still exist where you can interact with nature in relative solitude. Obviously, for ecotourism to be a financially sustainable enterprise there needs to be a balance between tourists and the vast openness that makes the region so unique.
The one concern I have with this book is that the title leaves you with the impression that the content will cover the entire Great Plains, when in fact all the essays are about Nebraska or areas extremely close to the Nebraska border. Given that this book is a product of Prairie Fire, a journal out of Lincoln, Nebraska, this makes sense. However, it would have been nice to include a few essays from the other parts of the Great Plains to provide a more comprehensive collection about the hidden ecological treasures of the entire region.
This book is a fairly quick and easy read that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the ecology of Nebraska and its surrounding areas and is seeking ways to experience nature. The essays and stories will engage the reader and may give some insight to the history of the Great Plains. Books like this have a niche market, but readers with this specific interest will find it rewarding. [End Page 61]
Hastings College Book Reviews