Frank Popper brings Buffalo Commons idea CU-Boulder

Dr. Frank Popper shows his quirky personality during his "Buffalo Commons" presentation at CU Boulder on Friday Photo by Kendall Brunette

Dr. Frank Popper shows his quirky personality during his “Buffalo Commons” presentation at CU-Boulder on Friday.
Photo by Kendall Brunette

Frank J. Popper of Princeton and Rutgers Universities entertained the University of Colorado-Boulder community on Friday with his proposal to restore the American Great Plains by reintroducing bison and the native prairie grasses they once consumed.

His speech, “Long-term Reflections on the Buffalo Commons,” explained the idea of a large-scale initiative to create a vast nature preserve by returning nearly 140,000 square miles of Great Plains prairie to its original ecological state.  Popper and his wife, Deborah, are the originators of the Buffalo Commons concept.

Popper’s passion for the topic showed as he sat swinging his boat shoe-clad feet wildly throughout the hour-long presentation.  As Popper’s enthusiasm rose, his emphatic foot-swinging became more apparent.

“Bison fall into three categories: historic, commercial or preservation,” Popper said.

As his audience listened, Popper explained why our country needs to preserve this iconic piece of American heritage.  Citing a lack of ecological knowledge and over-consumption of resources, Popper warned listeners about the unsustainable trajectory the country is currently following.

Nearly 60 CU students and faculty attended, and some questioned Popper’s plan. One man in the front row asked what type of complications might be associated with bison ownership.  Popper did not have a solid answer.

Gaddy Bergmann, a Ph.D. candidate in CU’s department of evolutionary biology, served as the host for Popper’s presentation.

“Frank and (his wife and fellow researcher) Deborah have pointed out that current land and resource use in the Great Plains is unsustainable, and that the region has been in economic and population decline for a century.”  “I thought it would be great for Dr. Popper, who is a planner and policy analyst, to speak before ecologists and conservation biologists because I think the two areas are highly complementary.”

Popper has published several books on the Buffalo Commons concept and his articles have appeared in several publications including the New York Times and High Country News.

With a final flagrant swinging of his arms, Popper ended his presentation with a teaser, telling audience members he saved the more dramatic and controversial aspects of his proposal for a later talk.  The CU community eagerly awaits his return.

Live coverage of Popper’s speech can be found here.

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