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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Prairie Photo Companion


One Colorado photographer takes aim at the plains in a new photo conservation book

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Harrier
Some of Showalter's best wildlife images came after hours of sitting in a blind. The trick was gaining access to photograph some of these animals because about 90 percent of this land is privately owned. Showalter would call up ranchers to tell them about the project and they would invite him out. Above: A northern harrier in flight, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

By working closely with Arsenal biologists and participating in field studies, Showalter gradually learned more about the issues facing the grasslands. Through this initial partnership, he eventually hooked up with Audubon Colorado, which has endorsed the book, The Nature Conservancy and a consortium of other conservation groups, government agencies and private landowners that are working to restore the land as a sanctuary for a variety of animals, ranging from bald eagles to bison. Thanks to the Shortgrass Prairie Initiative, a joint effort to counterbalance future habitat loss from transportation improvements by protecting large chunks of prairie, a series of three voluntary land preservation agreements are designed to protect tens of thousands of acres. Showalter says it’s an exciting time to be a part of what’s happening, and he’s looking forward to continuing his work.

Comanche Snow Lone Tree
Left: Early winter snow, Comanche National Grassland. Right: Windswept hillsides, Jefferson County.
"I’m not done with the grasslands by any stretch," says Showalter. "It’s important for photographers who have a conservation mindset to connect with people who are working to save these areas and photograph them. You have to pair pretty pictures with conservation work. Getting involved with these groups is the higher purpose of nature photography."

For more information about Prairie Thunder: The Nature of Colorado's Great Plains, visit www.prairie-thunder.com. To see more of Dave Showalter’s photography, visit www.daveshowalter.com.

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