In Prairie City, Iowa, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is undertaking one of the most ambitious prairie restoration projects in history, transforming farmland back to prairie at the 5,000-acre Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. A few years ago, biologists crisscrossed the state searching for prairie remnants where they could collect seeds of native prairie plants; they found 2,000 remnants of native prairie and savanna and enough seeds to do the job. A herd of 42 buffalo now grazes on the refuge, nine elk have been brought in from out of state, and all sorts of other wildlife are thriving on the land.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.