Though we've not met, Terry Evans has undoubtedly influenced my work. Her book, "Prairie: Images of Ground and Sky," has enjoyed permanent residence on my coffee table for as long as I can remember. Having grown up in and around airplanes, I was particularly enamored with her aerials. A few years ago, a close friend acquired a Cub—the kind of airplane that you can fly backwards on a windy day—doors and windows wide open. I knew immediately what I had to go do! Most of these images were shot from the SportCub or another friends O-1 Bird Dog. I recently partnered on an Aeronca Champ—I can't wait to get it out to the Flint Hills!

A few weeks ago, I reshared the first of these images (the predominately green ones) to social media and included these thoughts:

"I think the most intriguing thing about this series, to me anyway, is that these are pristine pastures—prime examples of a working, symbiotic, relationship between nature and industry. Well managed, it can be a BIG win/win. And realistically, the 'rancher as steward' model is our best hope for holding on to this last sliver of a richly diverse (and once expansive) ecosystem. The rocky soil saved this ground from the plow, and then a common use-model sustained it for the next 150 years or so. Now that model is under pressure. If you are lucky enough to acquire Flint Hills ranchland, PLEASE leave it in (or return it to) production—if not yourself, then with the help of one or more knowledgeable, conscientious, tenants. If it is timber your heart desires, please look elsewhere. You won't have to go far and it will cost a LOT less money. In addition to lost landscape, you've no idea (or worse yet you do) just how much work that patch of scrub creates for your neighbors.

As I look back through 40 years of photographs, two changes in the Flint Hills really stand out to me. First, the rich green velvet of spring has been replaced with something decidedly more textured. This is mostly due to ironweed—and while relatively benign, it is a sign of overgrazing. The second, much more serious, fatal in fact, is a shocking loss of habitat. Not so much in the central region, that has long been managed in large parcels, but the closer you get to I70... I joked (not so much) the other day (maybe here) that the sign along the interstate should read "Welcome to the Flint Hills—becoming the Ozarks one quarter-section at a time." We have long used the terms 'Flint Hills' and 'tallgrass prairie' interchangeably. But the truth, is that the Flint Hills are not the 'last significant example of....' but rather they include the 'last significant example...' and it is becoming smaller with each day that passes. Have you stood at the scenic overlook on 177 north of I70 lately?"

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