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Prairie expert completes Coffee residency

November 23, 2016

Practitioner-in-Residence Bill Whitney, right, assists Crawford students with harvesting seeds from Chadron State College's living fence along Tenth Street Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College) Practitioner-in-Residence Bill Whitney, right, assists Crawford students with harvesting seeds from Chadron State College's living fence along Tenth Street Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College)
Practitioner-in-Residence Bill Whitney describes prairie plants to more than 100 Crawford school children Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College) Practitioner-in-Residence Bill Whitney describes prairie plants to more than 100 Crawford school children Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College)
Practitioner-in-Residence Bill Whitney, right, leads more than 100 Crawford school children on a hike to learn about prairie plants at Chadron State College Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College) Practitioner-in-Residence Bill Whitney, right, leads more than 100 Crawford school children on a hike to learn about prairie plants at Chadron State College Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (Photo by Tena L. Cook/Chadron State College)

Bill Whitney, the first Practitioner-in-Residence with the Chadron State College range management program completed his two-month assignment on campus with a glowing remarks about the opportunity made possible by the Bill and Virginia Coffee Family Foundation.

Whitney, director and founder of the Prairie Plains Resource Institutenear Aurora, Nebraska, said he appreciated the chance to talk with a variety of audiences about ecological restoration of native grasslands in Nebraska.

In a series of October and November evening classes in the Rangeland Lab, Whitney said he emphasized the importance of the prairie and the role students play in educating others about it. He also shared the purpose, history and projects of his Institute.

His lectures focused on ecological restoration and management of native grasslands and watersheds, concepts about natural resource sustainability, the importance of broad natural history education, and social and communication aspects surrounding natural resource work.

“The prairie is a resilient natural ecosystem which people can restore in significant ways. If we realize its value what we need to do is apply vision and commitment to learning more about the system and applying that knowledge to the process of restoration. In talking about carbon and climate change I suggested that prairie restoration is a valid strategy for climate change, probably as much for water conservation reasons as carbon storage,” Whitney said.

He also discussed aspects of groundwater and surface water hydrology, biology, ecology, soils, invasive species, pollinators and fire management.

Whitney was also a guest lecturer in other CSC range classes and met with geoscience faculty and the Range Club.

He said he appreciated being the initial Practitioner-in-Residence at CSC and the accompanying latitude to craft the experience along with Dr. Ron Bolze, an associate professor in the range program.

During the residency, Whitney spoke with community groups including the Pine Ridge Job Corps, Crawford Elementary School, Prairie Pines, Chadron Rotary and appeared on a local radio talk show.

He was also able to lead a field trip, his first, to his institute's Guadalcanal Memorial Prairie and Ranch in Sioux County. The excursion also included a stop at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.

“I was eager to expose those on the tour to these two fascinating areas along the Upper Niobrara River, each with unique natural resources, organizational mission purposes and management challenges,” Whitney said.

Whitney expressed his gratitude to the Bill and Virginia Coffee Family Foundation and acknowledged Bolze and Laure Sinn for their assistance coordinating his travel and speaking engagements.

—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator

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