North American Grasslands
Illinois is a tallgrass prairie state. This ecosystem once covered almost 264,000 square miles from Canada to Texas and Nebraska to the Great Lakes. Most of the tallgrass prairie vanished in less than 50 years, converted to farmland and overgrazed by domestic livestock. Today, only small patches of tallgrass prairie remain, barely enough to remind us of its original grandeur.
The United States has no grassland national park; this ecosystem disappeared too quickly under the settlers' plows to be preserved. Only a few conservationists were interested in prairie preservation prior to the 1970s. As a result, pristine tallgrass prairie is the rarest of North America's major biomes.
Approximately 99.99 percent of the tallgrass prairie has been destroyed; some of what remains is protected. Even today, non-protected prairie remnants are threatened by construction of houses, shopping centers, roads and parking lots.
Health and Sciences Division
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