Battle on the Booming Grounds
The center of the North American continent was once a vast sea of grasses. The eastern edge of the Great Plains — which includes Missouri and Illinois — evolved a rich diversity of life, including the greater prairie chicken, its signature species, which was exalted in legend but decimated throughout settlement history. The bird’s true importance within the prairie’s complex ecological community was belatedly recognized by scientists, but not before it was driven to near extinction. The prairie chicken’s fate now lies solely within our hands. What secret keys do the grasses and this symbolic bird hold to the fate of humanity? “Battle on the Booming Ground” uses the prairie chicken as a means of exploring a whole range of wider environmental issues — farming practices, sustainability, biological diversity, and fragmentation of habitat — with filmmaker Timothy Barksdale, a native St. Louisan, and an array of scientific experts providing illuminating commentary. The film is highlighted by strikingly beautiful footage of the birds’ complex mating dance, with the males performing their distinctive displays on the so-called booming grounds.