Christiansen remembered as prairie pioneer

Iowa prairie restoration pioneer Paul Christiansen, who taught biology at Cornell College from 1967-1996, is remembered in an article by Rich Patterson that was published in the Museum of Danish America’s America Letter magazine.

Paul Christiansen
Paul Christiansen

In his article “Running the Plow Backward,” Patterson points out that by 1900, 85 percent of Iowa’s prairie was wiped out. Perhaps inspired by Jens Jensen and Aldo Leopold, who were early advocates for natural landscapes, Christiansen became a pioneer in restoring prairies, especially along roadsides.

Patterson quotes former Cornell College President Les Garner in the article: “In 1988 his work helped establish the Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund,” Garner said. “Paul taught several generations of Cornell students to understand and respect the extent to which Iowa’s tallgrass prairie is an important part of our heritage.”

Patterson, the retired director of the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wrote that with Christiansen’s help, “the Nature Center ‘ran the plow backward’ and restored a small prairie that was gradually expanded to over 40 acres. Thousands of children now experience the waving prairie plants and feel the joy that stirred Jensen, Leopold, and Christiansen.”

The Paul Christiansen Prairie was dedicated by the Nature Center a year before Christiansen’s death in 2007.