Native prairies are increasingly threatened
January 10, 2014
In 2008 when I accepted a tenure-track teaching position at Montana State University-Northern, I felt extraordinarily fortunate to land a job that allows me to do the things I enjoy and work on things that interest me. And, as a native of Montana, I was thrilled to be working in Montana after several years of being away.
One of my favorite courses to teach is applied business leadership, with topics around the importance of vision. Manning and Curtis (2013), in “The Art of Leadership” presented “10 qualities that mark a leader and help influence the leadership process-vision, ability, enthusiasm, stability, concern for others, self-confidence, persistence, vitality, charisma, and integrity” (p. 30). I wish to focus on vision. Manning and Curtis defined vision in the following way:
“A vision of what could and should be is a basic force that enables the leader to recognize what must be done and to do it … a sense of vision is especially powerful when it embodies a common cause — overcoming tyranny, stamping out hunger, or improving the human condition” (p. 30).
Examples of leadership vision can be seen in computer pioneer Steve Jobs, business entrepreneur Bill Gates and conservation champion, Theodore Roosevelt. These leaders have altered business and society in irreversible ways.
One of my favorite areas to find inspiration and explore is Yellowstone National Park, and I am forever grateful to Theodore Roosevelt’s vision, his call for protecting great natural resources and his voice in shaping conservation policy.
As leader of our country, President Roosevelt created five national parks, signed the landmark Antiquities Act and used its special provision to unilaterally create 18 national monuments, set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres’ worth of national forests.
During a speech at Osawatomic, Kan., on Aug. 31, 1910, Roosevelt shared his philosophy of conservation, which included the following: “Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on … .” (retrieved Jan. 8, 2014, from http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trenv.html).
What is our vision for Montana? While exploring the buttes, breaks and badlands, I redefined what constitutes an attractive landscape.
What we have in the Montana high plains is unique and striking. The high plains have high historical value. Archeologists recognize thousands of historical sites across the Montana Hi-Line. Do we have a vision in keeping the Montana high plains a treasure? Do we share Theodore Roosevelt’s vision and philosophy of conservation as we seek opportunities to relish in and share this beautiful state — its primitive, wilderness and roadless areas, the trails, and historical sites and the vast opportunities they provide to Montanans and visitors today and in the future? Native prairies across the United States are increasingly threatened as they are being turned over, drilled, encroached upon or developed in other ways.
(Barbara Zuck lives in Havre.)