Photo Above: Touch The Sky Prairie is located in Rock County - near Luverne, MN.
By: Nicole Zempel
It is hard to imagine the beauty that is Touch The Sky Prairie. It is even harder to imagine that this beauty once swept over 240 million acres of land.
Touch The Sky was once but a speck in what was this continents largest ecosystem. Today, it stands out as a part of the one percent that remains.
Rich prairie lands thrived for eight thousand years - so it seems incomprehensible that it took the plow just over a half century to bring the prairie to its brink.
It was with this perspective that I took each step in gratitude. Thankful for the day, thankful for the breeze that breathed its peace into my being. Thankful that future generations may experience the same.
A certain exchange - one of "give" and "take" naturally exists between the steward and the land. The true steward understands this partnership. The true steward delights in the giving as much as the receiving.
And thankfully, there is a growing movement to educate people about prairies - and many states are rehabilitating what is left of their prairie lands - reintroducing the native wildlife and plants.
What visitors of Touch The Sky experience today is part of the larger vision and passion of Jim Brandenburg, a native of Luverne, MN. Jim worked for National Geographic for twenty-five years as a photographer and currently makes his home in Ely, MN.
Touch The Sky Prairie is a partnership of the Brandenburg Prairie Foundation and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Their mission is to educate, promote, preserve and expand native prairie in Southwest Minnesota.
Even though Brandenburg lives in Ely, he remains very connected to the place he grew up. The community of Luverne is proud to have one of only two Brandenburg Galleries. The Brandenburg Prairie Foundation owns the gallery and all proceeds go to the Foundation for its prairie preservation projects.
Jim and his wife Judy with the help of many dedicated supporters in Luverne established the Foundation in 1999 and an awareness of the prairie's irreplaceable beauty and significance.
The Foundation along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the first track of 355 acres of unplowed prairie in 2001. Additional purchases were made in 2002, 2003 and the latest in 2010 brings the total number of acres to 978.
This prairie is home to a Sioux quartzite ridgeline that runs over a mile and there are numerous outcroppings where herds of bison once rubbed the rocks to a smooth, glassy finish.
There is a small waterway, Beaver Creek, that runs through a portion of the property and in one location runs over layered rock forming a small series of waterfalls which his home to river otters.
In 2001, over 120 species of native plants were identified on the property. By 2008 that number of native plants increased to well over 167.
The Dakota Sioux have identified a portion of the land which has been used as a Native American vision quest site.
It is no wonder then that my visit to Touch The Sky Prairie was as spiritually nourishing as it was enlightening. I am deeply thankful for a growing awareness that a lands true value isn't calculated in dollars and cents.
Arms stretched behind my head I watched the grass sway over head and the clouds cast shadows. In that moment was the only place I wanted to be. I am hopeful for what is to come.
Please take a moment and enjoy the photo gallery below and for more information about Touch The Sky Prairie and the Brandenburg Foundation please visit: http://jimbrandenburg.com/bpf/visit/