At the center of the United States, between the Rockies and the tallgrass prairies of the Midwest and South, lies the shortgrass expanse of the Great Plains. The region extends over large parts of 10 states and produces cattle, corn, wheat, sheep, cotton, coal, oil, natural gas, and metals. The Plains are endlessly windswept and nearly treeless; the climate is semiarid, with typically less than 20 inches of rain a year. The country is rolling in parts in the north, dead flat in the south. It is lightly populated. A dusty town with a single gas station, store, and house is sometimes 50 unpaved miles from its nearest neighbor, another three-building settlement amid the sagebrush. As we define the region, its eastern border is the 98th meridian. San Antonio and Denver are on the Plains' east and west edges, respectively, but the largest city actually located in the Plains is Lubbock, Texas, population 179,000. Although the Plains occupy one-fifth of the nation's land area, the region's overall population, approximately 5.5 million, is less than that of Georgia or Indiana. The Great Plains are America's steppes. They have the nation's hottest summers and coldest winters, greatest temperature swings, worst hail and locusts and range fires, fiercest droughts and blizzards, and therefore its shortest growing season. The Plains are the land of the Big Sky and the Dust Bowl, one-room schoolhouses and settler homesteads, straight-line interstates and custom combines, prairie dogs and antelope and buffalo. The oceans-of-grass vistas of the Plains offer enormous horizons, billowy clouds, and somber-serene beauty. During America's pioneer days and then again during the Great Depression, the Plains were a prominent national concern. But by 1952, in his book The Great Frontier, the Plains' finest historian, the late Walter Prescott Webb of the University of Texas, could accurately describe them as the least-known, most fateful part of the United States. We believe that over the next generation the Plains will, as a result of the largest, longest- running agricultural and environmental miscalculation in American history, become almost totally depopulated. At that point, a new use for the region will emerge, one that is in fact so old that it predates the American presence. We are suggesting that the region be returned to its original pre-white state, that it be, in effect, deprivatized.