1979-2019: 40th Anniversary of the Missouri Prairie Journal

A Plains spadefoot toad graced the cover of the first issue of the Missouri Prairie Journal in the late fall of 1979. This 40-year-old publication continues to showcase the importance of prairie.

Since its inception in 1979, the Missouri Prairie Journal has stimulated awareness of and appreciation for this iconic endangered resource that is an essential part of our natural and cultural identity. With its laser-like focus on prairie systems, the Missouri Prairie Journal has been a powerful resource in advancing prairie conservation, the benefits of which will resonate through future generations.

Doug Ladd, retired Director of Conservation Science, 
Missouri Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

It was the fall of 1996 when then MPF President Warren Lammert asked if I would become the next editor of the Missouri Prairie Journal. Twenty-three years later, I continue to edit and publish this now 40-year-old publication, which is dedicated to sharing information about the work of the Missouri Prairie Foundation; our state’s and nation’s prairie heritage; prairie ecology; new prairie research; the importance of establishing native prairie vegetation for cattle forage, for carbon storage, improved water quality, and soil health; national policies affecting our native grassland legacy, and many other topics. 

I thank all contributors of articles and photographs over the years, and writers who were willing to listen to me when I called them and said “I have this idea for an article . . .”

Thanks to contributors to the Missouri Prairie Journal, members and other readers can learn about the results of a new quail predator study; read an interview with Time magazine Hero of the Planet Dr. Peter H. Raven (from new issue); consult “Front Yard Formal” native garden designs; learn how to make a native container garden; find out why mycorrhizal fungi is so important to grasslands; and become better informed on many other topics important to advancing prairie conservation for the benefit of all.

The Missouri Prairie Journal is published three times a year and delivered to the postal mailboxes of MPF members. Full issues and individual articles are also available online for anyone in the world to consult. If you aren’t a member now, I invite you become a member today—for as little at $3 a month—and help support the award-winning prairie protection work of the Missouri Prairie Foundation.

The precursor to the Missouri Prairie Journal was Prairie News, a quarterly mimeographed newsletter that began in 1966, the same year MPF began. Black and white photos of prairie enthusiasts on field trips and news of early land acquisitions showed members and others that MPF was serious about saving prairie.

Jerry Overton was the first editor followed by June Hunzeker, John Couper, Jane Heitman, and myself. MPF President Steve Mowry suggested the publication “go full color” in 2006. Over the years, new features have been added, including Jeff Cantrell’s “Education on the Prairie,” complete with Missouri Learning Standards, and a Grow Native! section on native plant landscaping and related topics. Professional design by Tracy Ritter, and now Janice Wiese-Fales, showcases the beauty of prairie and the important work of contributors. 

Observations from readers on this 40th anniversary of the Missouri Prairie Journal:

I look forward to the arrival in my mailbox of the Missouri Prairie Journal because it promises several hours of enjoyable reading that day. The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s handsome magazine offers Foundation members and other readers with well-written articles by true authorities on important topics, displayed on well-designed, easily read, and well illustrated pages. The subject matter ranges from the national and general (endangered species, the campaign to save and restore grasslands) to the local and specific (what to plant on your farm or in your backyard). Reading it makes me optimistic that prairies may continue to be an important component of the North American natural environment.  As a former managing editor of the National Wildlife Federation’s magazine National Wildlife, I salute Carol Davit and the Missouri Prairie Foundation for their production of a periodical with a positive national impact.  Long live prairies!

Dr. Rupert Cutler, MPF member, Roanoke, Virginia

Partly because of this engaging magazine, we have elevated the importance of saving the irreplaceable biological diversity of Missouri's prairies, and much more information about  prairie conservation has been shared than we would have thought possible when the Missouri Prairie Journal started 40 years ago. 

Dr. Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden and MPF member

And from the first editor:

It simply does not seem possible that the Missouri Prairie Journal is now celebrating its 40th birthday.  When we, the board, decided to launch it in 1979, it was unique because, interestingly, there were simply no other native prairie periodicals around. As its first editor, the vision from the Board was simple, communicate, communicate, communicate, and that is I tried to do. The first objective was to communicate with our members, and a second with all prairie enthusiasts.  We also had another objective, to communicate new native grassland science and promote preservation of our prairies.  Now, 40 years later, it is simply superb to see all that has been accomplished by MPF and how the Missouri Prairie Journal continues that original vision, and in ways of which we never even dreamt. May this amazing journey never end!!!

—Jerry Overton, Missouri Prairie Journal editor, 1979-1986; MPF lifetime member, President of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch
Salt Lake City, Utah.