The High Plains: Land of Extremes
This site covers the physical features of the High Plains (or Great Plains), the grasses and plants of the area, prairie dog ecosystems, riparian areas, mining, management, water resources, and fire cycles. Student activities are based on the study of groundwater movement, energy resources, wind energy, and riparian areas. A debate allows students to understand the viewpoints of different interest groups in considering whether the black-footed ferret should be reintroduced onto public lands.
- Learn about the ecosystems and habitats of the High Plains.
- Consider specific problems associated with re-introducing black-footed ferrets into the area.
- Become acquainted with the perspectives of the people whose interests are involved in the re-introduction of the ferret.
- Assess healthy vs. unhealthy riparian areas.
Context for Use
Teaching Notes and Tips
References and Resources
Basic information about the history and ecology of the black-footed ferret is available at:
- Nebraska Wildlife: Black-footed Ferret
- Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) Recovery Update from the University of Michigan
- Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team
According to the above links, recovery of the black-footed ferret population depends on range extension for prairie dogs. Black-footed ferrets aren't the only species dependent on prairie dogs. The Prairie Dog Coalition argues that the black-tailed prairie dog is a keystone species upon which many other species depend. This idea raises serious concerns among many people who will be living in prairie dog country.
- Prairie dogs are a dangerous vector for bubonic plague, even at their current low population levels:
- US Fish and Wildlife Service - Mountain-Prairie Region
- Bryce Canyon National Park - Note the warning in the last paragraph
- News Article with Notes on Bubonic Plague
- Prairie Dogs, like cattle, are grazers and may compete with cattle, especially on heavily grazed public lands.
- A Forest Service paper indicating little or long-term effects of prairie dog removal on forage
- A US Dept. of Agriculture paper that shows that cattle benefit prairie dog populations.
- A Conservation Site with some facts for both sides.