Homestead National Monument Of America Case Study

Homestead National Monument of America preserves the legacy of The Homestead Act of 1862, one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. By granting free land it allowed nearly any man or woman a chance to live the American dream.

View the text version of the Homestead National Monument Of America.

Homestead National Monument Of America Case Study

Homestead National Monument of America preserves the legacy of The Homestead Act of 1862, one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. By granting free land it allowed nearly any man or woman a chance to live the American dream.

View the multimedia version of the Homestead National Monument Of America. (Flash Required.)

Homestead National Monument Of America—Case Study—Text Version

Maintaining the tallgrass prairie ecosystem at Homestead National Monument of America.

Slide 1

ONSCREEN: The 160-acre Homestead National Monument of America was created by Congress in 1936.

NARRATOR: Homestead National Monument of America, located near Beatrice, Nebraska, exists to commemorate the Homestead Act of 1862 and the impacts it had on the United States and the world.

Slide 2

ONSCREEN: The prairie shows today’s visitor what challenges early homesteaders faced changing native grasses into farmland.

NARRATOR: Today, the monument manages 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie, which contains over 260 plant species.

Slide 3

ONSCREEN: The tallgrass prairie first took root 8,000 years ago, when the last glaciers retreated from the Midwest. American Indians influenced the tallgrass ecosystem greatly by using fire as a means to manipulate the environment.

NARRATOR: American Indians used fire for hunting, driving game, warfare, to protect villages, and to escape enemies. By examining historical literature researchers have found that lightning caused fires are mentioned much less than fires attributed to American Indians.

Slide 4

ONSCREEN: Today, only about 1% of the original 140 million acres of tallgrass prairie remains.

NARRATOR: The fire cycle was greatly changed by the Homestead Act of 1862 which brought settlers who suppressed all fires. They could not afford to let fire rob them of grass for their livestock or burn their dwellings. The settlers' steel plow and the suppression of fire forever changed the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

Slide 5

ONSCREEN: Trees and shrubs that try to invade the tallgrass prairie can often be removed by reintroducing fire to the tallgrass prairie ecosystem on a recurring schedule.

NARRATOR: As woody plant species take hold, they become large enough to shade out the native grasses and flowers.

Slide 6

ONSCREEN: The prairie ecosystem is always changing, trying to become a forest through a process known as "succession."

NARRATOR: Without fire, shade-tolerant trees would begin to dominate the landscape.

Slide 7

ONSCREEN: Prairies have evolved side by side with fire, and need it just as they need rain or soil.

NARRATOR: The challenge now is to preserve the prairie without destroying the native plants and animals. Prescribed fire is the most effective tool.

Slide 8

ONSCREEN: Only portions of the prairie are burned, which preserves the habitat for plants and animals, and better represents the “patchiness” that natural fires once formed.

NARRATOR: A prescribed fire returns nutrients to the soil, stops invasive trees and helps native plants spread their seeds. Fire also removes the thatch that can choke a root system.

Slide 9

ONSCREEN: A burn plan outlines all the conditions needed for a safe prescribed fire. In addition, the park notifies neighbors and the media weeks in advance.

NARRATOR: The prescribed burn begins with the writing of a Burn Plan.

Slide 10

ONSCREEN: On the day of the burn, at any time, the Burn Boss, who is responsible for the safety of the prescribed burn, can stop the operation if conditions are not ideal.

NARRATOR: Fire is first started in a small, highly controlled area to determine how it will behave. If the test burn goes well, the prescribed fire moves forward.

Slide 11

ONSCREEN: Fire is slowly applied to the landscape. Firefighters are strategically placed on the prairie, including one person to monitor the weather and give frequent weather reports.

NARRATOR: Months of preparation have taken place to provide for a safe operation.

Slide 12

ONSCREEN: Shortly after the smoke clears, the prairie starts to show life again.

NARRATOR: Only a few short days after the fire, the ground already shows a tint of green, as young shoots break through to catch the abundant sunlight. After a month, the incredible lushness of plant growth makes it hard to imagine a fire had ever been here.

Slide 13

ONSCREEN: The mission of the National Park Service is to “...conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein ...”

NARRATOR: Homestead National Monument of America is dedicated to interpreting and sharing our nation’s homesteading history; the restored tallgrass prairie is an important component of this mission. It is critical that this ecosystem be preserved for future generations to study and enjoy.