Sunday, June 8, 2008

"Rewilding" the Great Plains brings eco-tourism to North Dakota

A marvelous travel story in today's New York Times features North Dakota. No offense to North Dakotans, but the state is not one of the first that comes to mind for a domestic vacation.

It seems, however, that the depopulation of the Great Plains, which has not been so good for rural communities there, has brought some considerable ecological benefits to the state -- and with them, tourist dollars.

Here's a quote from the story by Joshua Kurlantzick.

Outdoors people, big landowners, travel operators and conservationists are now returning much of the Great Plains to its wild state, to a kind of American steppe. Conservationists are reviving native fauna and flora, and wolf populations are returning to the Yellowstone area. In the future, many hope, one giant fenceless region might be created across the entire plains that cover much of central North America east of the Rockies south to West Texas and New Mexico.

Appealing as this trend is at first blush, Kurlantzick's story reveals that it does create conflicts among rural/small town interests, agricultural interests, and environmental/conservationist interests. Perhaps those hoping to keep their towns alive will benefit economically from the eco-tourism; perhaps the trend will also create further incentives for them to be good stewards of the land.


Dakota Lifestyle: Beyond the Weather said...

Did you know torism is the second-largest industry in North Dakota? This is a great place for history buffs to learn about Lewis & Clark and General Custer. Fishing and hunting are big here and bring in people from all over the nation, and we get a lot of foreign visitors--many from Norway and surrounding countries.

Frank Popper said...

Anyone interested in more information about the Buffalo Commons work my wife Deborah Popper and I have done should look at my Rutgers website,, or get in touch with me at fpopper@rci.rutgers or fpopper@princeton. Best wishes,
Frank Popper
Rutgers and Princeton Universities