Buffalo Commons: Why I Am Against a National Plan to Reclaim the Plains

In his essay, "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau presented to citizens everywhere a challenge to act against society and "stop the machine" of injustice. He wrote that America had, "dwindled into...a manifest lack of intellect and cheerful self-reliance," and that citizens should let their lives become a "counter friction" by acting according to free will as is a human's true nature. Thoreau issued this challenge to make his readers realize that not all authority is justified. He wanted his readers to evaluate their own morals and judge for themselves right from wrong and act accordingly, even if this meant acting civilly disobedient.

An issue which concerns me is a proposal known as "Buffalo Commons." Developed in New Jersey by two Rutgers University professors, Frank and Deborah Popper, Buffalo Commons is essentially a national land management plan which would convert much of the Great Plains back into prairie, thus creating the world's largest national park. According to THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 24, 1990, the Buffalo Commons area would include portions of Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming. Mr. and Mrs. Popper assert that over the next thirty years much of the Great Plains should become a hurge reserve with more than 139,000 miles of open land and a wildlife refuge because, as Mrs. Popper stated in THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, "On the Plains I saw anguish, waste, a lack of sense, and awful planning." By attempting to turn back the ecological and economic clock one hundred years, the Poppers apparently believe they can improve upon both the urban and the rural areas of this country.

As one born and raised in western Nebraska, part of the area targetted for inclusion in the "world's largest national park," I disagree with the Poppers' "Buffalo Commons" proposal. Although I naturally have a deep sentimental attachment to this area, my argument with this proposal is not based on this fact alone. Many of the reasons on which the Poppers have based their plan are weak at best. They state that the poor economy of the Great Plains, combined with low investment, construction, and population density justify their proposal. While the agriculturally based economy of Nebraska has been weak in past years, investment and construction continue, increasing in some areas. My community of Franklin and a neighboring city of Kearney serve as two perfect foils for the Poppers' premisses.