Nebraska, situated historically in a great sea of prairie grass, has been home to a long series of respected naturalists, from Lincoln native Loren Eiseley to recent generations of scholars, photographers and environmental preservationists.
Paul Johnsgard, an internationally respected environmental scholar who died last week, made vital contributions to expanding knowledge of the natural world. The longtime University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor displayed immense energy for decades, producing more than 100 books and numerous journal articles on ornithology and related subjects.
His many years of work in studying the sandhill crane migration contributed greatly to preservation work along the Platte River, spurring central Nebraska’s tourism economy.
Both The World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star named Johnsgard as one of the 100 most influential Nebraskans of the 20th century, and organizations including the National Audubon Society, the American Ornithologists Society and the National Wildlife Federation honored his work.
In the wake of Johnsgard’s death, it’s appropriate not only to remember and salute his legacy but also to nurture the next generation of naturalists to strengthen Nebraska’s future.