A brilliant piece by Benjamin Vogt on our “least protected and most endangered ecosystem,” the grasslands, and how the decline of the monarch is just one component of a broader problem: the destruction of the entire prairie ecosystem in the middle of our nation.

By 2100 the American Great Plains may lose 77% of its once formidable expanse, a region whose rates of loss equal deforestation of rainforests in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Within the Plains environment are countless species of insect, amphibian, mammal, and plant that are severely threatened, from lesser prairie chickens to salt creek tiger beetles to Texas horned lizards to black footed ferrets. The loss of biodiversity is stunning, and as folks like E.O. Wilson and Elizabeth Kolbert state, we may be losing thousands of species each year across the planet – some studies suggest dozens every hour. In fact, Timothy Walker in his book Plant Conservation: Why It Matters and How it Works, suggests that we may lose nearly 30% of our plant species alone by mid century.