Gambling on a Prairie
Some people go to casinos to gamble. Gary Tegtmeier chose to gamble on a land purchase. Inspired by his long-standing interest in preserving tallgrass prairies, Gary spent years researching land sales with promising high-quality prairies. When a prairie hay meadow in Anderson County came up for sale in the summer of 2014, Gary got his first chance to inspect this land, but only after the prairie was mowed and harvested for hay. The removal of most of the identifiable plants in the hay meadow drastically hampered his ability to assess the quality of this prairie. Fortunately a few high-value plants were found in the field margins suggesting this prairie might be a gem. In the fall of 2014, Gary outbid a competing buyer and purchased the property.
During the following spring and summer, Gary found this prairie was indeed a "treasure trove of high-value forbs." Thanks to a plant inventory compiled by Caleb Morse with the KU Biodiversity Institute, we now know that this 77-acre prairie hosts the threatened Mead's milkweed, as well as American bluehearts, blood milkwort, rattlesnake master, prairie dropseed, azure aster, leadplant, and many other plants with high "coefficients of conservation," a measure of a species’ likely presence in an undisturbed (pre-settlement) landscape. Gary named this land Paintbrush Prairie. As its name implies, Indian paintbrush blooms there in the summer coloring the land. After the Kansas Land Trust protected Paintbrush Prairie this past month, Gary finally feels that his land gamble paid off.
"I couldn't be happier with the fact that into perpetuity this prairie is not going to be grazed or plowed," explained Gary. When asked about how he feels after years of searching for the right prairie and finally reaching the conservation easement closing day, Gary admitted "It takes a lot for me to walk on air. I would say that I am close to doing that today. It is a good feeling to know we have saved a prairie with a high-value per square foot. I couldn’t be happier to know that it will be here when my grandchildren’s grandchildren are out and about."
The following links provide you with views and information about Paintbrush Prairie.
An aerial view of Paintbrush Prairie.
A brief interview with Gary Tegtmeier.
Maps and a plant inventory of Paintbrush Prairie.