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Great Plains Are Great, Not Plain

I'll admit it: I haven't done much traveling in the areas west of the Mississippi and east of California. Translation: I haven't really seen much of my own country. I'll also sheepishly admit that when I think of that vast region, I envision dry grass plains and corn. Lots of corn. This ignorance of mine is exactly what photographer Michael Forsberg is trying to turn on its head. His work is in a new book called Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild and, needless to say, it put my mental images to shame.

Unfortunately, my ignorance is probably shared by many. This often neglected, underappreciated and misunderstood "region" of our country actually comprises a great majority of our land, and in just the past 100 years has undergone a dramatic transformation as a result of human migration and industrialization. It is now one of the most endangered landscapes in North America, and easily the least protected. So Forsberg teamed up with writer/biologist Dan O'Brien, writer/geographer David Wishart and former American Poet Laureate Ted Kooser to make us care about our big backyard.

Over the course of about four years, Forsberg trekked 100,000 miles across 12 states and three provinces, from southern Canada to northern Mexico, to produce the fieldwork for this project. Underwritten by The Nature Conservancy, this book shows both the splendor and the vulnerability of America's Great Plains. Corn? Ha!

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