The Nebraska Sandhills represents one of the world's last remaining intact grasslands. Unlike much of Nebraska, this ecosystem is not good for growing rowcrops like corn or soybeans due to its sandy soils and limited rainfall. Instead, this ecosystem is largely used for ranching and is home to many species of wildlife.
The Sandhills and other grasslands in the Great Plains are currently threatened by what is being called "the green glacier"-- a slow but steady encroachment of invasive tree species into ecosystems which have traditionally been dominated by grasses and wildflowers. These invasive species not only threaten the habitat of native wildlife but also threaten the livelihood of ranchers who depend on the vast grasslands to feed their livestock.
Ranchers and land managers have several tools available to them in the fight against woody encroachment including fire and mechanical removal of trees. But devising a land management strategy is no easy feat. Many factors must be considered including cost, time, and familiarity and comfort using the different tools.
Now it's your turn.
Play Prairie Protector. Choose a level and develop a strategy to combat woody encroachment using the available tools.
Want a tougher challenge? Play a custom game with 1, 2, or 3 neighbors (played by the computer) to experience the difficulty of combating invasive species when your fate is tied to not only your own actions but also the actions of your neighbors.
Attention K-12 Classroom Teachers and Afterschool Educators!
Are you interested in using the game in your classroom or afterschool program with middle school or high school students? We have provided Prairie Protector lessons to link gameplay to broader learning objectives. We have also included details on how you can get involved with our team!