Great Plains - America's Lingering Wild

Air Date: 11/25/2012

“The beauty here is often subtle.  It doesn't knock you off your feet at a glance
the way the snow-capped Colorado Rockies or the rugged coastline of
the Pacific Northwest do.  But it can be every bit as remarkable.”
—     Michael Forsberg

Follow nature photographer Michael Forsberg as he examines the remaining "wildness" in the Great Plains of North America. Featuring stunning imagery, “Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild” is based on Forsberg’s book of the same name.

Less than 200 years ago, the Great Plains was one of the greatest grassland ecosystems on Earth, stretching nearly a million square miles down the heart of the continent.  The prairie was a place of constant motion, shaped by an unforgiving cycle of the seasons. Huge numbers of bison, elk, pronghorn, deer, prairie dogs, prairie wolves and even grizzlies were common.  There were massive migrations of birds and fish. But as America grew, and the land was settled and tamed, the wildness began disappearing.

Today the Great Plains is a fragile and threatened ecosystem, home to a variety of wildlife and habitats. In this documentary, Forsberg examines the wildlife and native landscapes that remain, exploring the current condition of the plains ecosystem.

The Great Plains helped grow a country. It helps to feed the world.  And increasingly it is being asked to fuel our energy needs. But now, these same grasslands are among the most altered and least protected regions on Earth. There is growing concern that the wildlife they still harbor and the natural resources we all depend on are being stressed and stretched to their limits.  "Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild" explores that concern.

The program begins with the story of "Our Most Precious Resource," water, visiting the Platte River Valley of Nebraska, the Missouri Coteau in North Dakota, the Llano Estacado of Texas, the Weaver Ranch in New Mexico and the Flint Hills of Kansas.  Along the way, Forsberg talks with numerous experts as he seeks an understanding of how best to safeguard the water supplies needed to support our remaining wildlife.

In the second part of the program, "The Freedom to Roam," Forsberg and the NET crew travel to the Upper Missouri Breaks and the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana; Woodward, Oklahoma; the Powder River Basin in Wyoming; and the Conata Basin in South Dakota to learn more about providing sufficient habitats for the area's wildlife.

.In "Living with the Land," the final part of the program, there are visits to the Chico Basin Ranch in Colorado, the Cheyenne  River Ranch in South Dakota, the Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies in Nebraska and Broken Kettle Preserve in Iowa.

Today some of the biggest issues of our time—water scarcity, climate change, food production, energy development, pipelines, etc.—are playing themselves out right here in the heart of the continent, the Great Plains.

As Forsberg says at program's end:

"Moving forward, perhaps the most important question to ask now is, what do we want
the Great Plains to be? What will it look like, how will it function, and will it have
wildness? What will our generation leave behind for our children’s future."

“Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild,” is funded in part by the Nebraska Humanities Council, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and the Nebraska Academy of Sciences.  It is a co-production of Nebraska Public Media and Michael Forsberg Photography.

Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild – Photo Gallery