DHS senior restores native prairie


Wildcat Photo

Senior Isabel Haake (center) poses with supporters after successfully convincing the De Soto City Council to allow her family’s prairie restoration project.

Hunter Finerty, Editor in Chief

De Soto High School has notoriously had a large group of students that are interested in what they can do for the environment. Between Scott and Kylee Sharp’s environmental science-based classes, as well as the Environmental Council, or Eco Club, there are many opportunities for students to learn about their surroundings and personal impact on the world. One student, senior Isabel Haake, took her impact into her own hands and even inspired her family to take action. 

After attending a summer camp in the Flint Hills, Haake became passionate about the Tallgrass Prairie, the native prairie of Kansas. Haake discovered that only 1 percent of the prairie is left. She knew she wanted to do something about it. 

           “Prairie restoration is something we could do at home that would be impactful for our family and neighborhood,” Haake said. 

Starting in 2019, the Haake family began to convert their own yard into Tallgrass Prairie. They planted native plants and grasses in order to attract bees, butterflies and other native wildlife. 

Two years into the four-year project, the Haakes encountered a new kind of problem. Their neighbors decided to complain to the city of De Soto about the prairie, calling it “ugly” and describing it as nothing more than “overgrown weeds.”

“We initially didn’t know which neighbors were angry, but we were super upset when we found out. We were surprised how rude they were,” Haake said. 

After the dispute was tabled at one city council meeting, Haake sprang into action to make sure her family would not be let down at the following meeting on Sept. 17. 

Haake created a Change.org petition that garnered over 500 votes in the span of a week. The petition was shared on Facebook numerous times and gained many positive comments from community members.

Haake shared graphics for Instagram stories and printed stickers, shirts and yard signs all reading “I support Haake Prairie Restoration.” While rallying supporters through the internet, Haake also began to gather a group of friends and family to actually attend the city council meeting. 

“It felt very important to support Kansas natural biodiversity and preserve the prairies,” senior Riley Chambers said. Chambers was in attendance at the meeting.

The meeting took place on the evening of Sept. 17, and many supporters were in attendance. The Haake family presented their case to keep their prairie restoration project going strong. 

Ultimately, the city council voted to allow the Haake family to keep restoring the prairie. Not only that, but city council members also concluded that prairie restoration should be something that anyone with the proper time and land can invest in. 

Now that this obstacle has passed, Haake plans to continue working on this project by doing things like yearly prairie burns, continuing to nourish the native plants in the yard and educating others on how to help restore the Tallgrass Prairie themselves.