Change on the Range

Jarid Manos believes that ecological devastation mirrors social devastation on the Great Plains

By Samantha Harvey

Jarid Manos is not the usual urbanite, nor is he the usual environmentalist. He’s a little of both, having discovered his eco-calling after an unsettled youth on the streets of Los Angeles and New York and in the rural towns of Texas and the Great Plains, struggling for survival through violence, drugs, and prostitution. Today, Manos is the CEO of the Great Plains Restoration Council (GPRC), a board member of the Black Vegetarian Society of Texas, and a published author.

GPRC, described on its web site as a “multiracial, multicultural environmental health non-profit,” has headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas with outposts in Denver, Colorado and Wounded Knee, South Dakota. GPRC programs include the Million Acre Project, designed to restore and connect one million acres of prairie land, and the Plains Youth Inter-Action program, which teaches kids about connections between outside environments, personal initiative, and cultural understanding.

With a nine-year-old son to raise and a new memoir, Ghetto Plainsman, slated to hit the shelves this fall, how does Jarid Manos do it all? Plenty recently tracked him down to find out.

What are some of the main ideas behind GPRC?

We like to think of GPRC as a three-legged stool, with the legs being equal supports of self, community and environment. And we’re trying to get people to see the environment and the protection of the ecological world as a cultural issue. Out here in the Great Plains, our ecological devastation mirrors a lot of our social devastation. Just because we’re living in a city doesn’t mean we aren’t living in an ecosystem. It’s important to have your ecological identity wherever you live.

What was your main impetus for changing your life around and starting an environmental advocacy group?

There was no sledgehammer moment, but I guess in a way I was trying to escape from all the ugliness, whether it was my own or in the world, and then I realized that there was no safe place to escape to. Around 1994 I started having thoughts of moving out of my knee-jerk militancy and anger because it was making me sick. Ultimately I believe so much more in the goodness of people now. If we are going to grow up as a society and as individuals, it’s up to me to make sure I’m not pulled down.

Was writing Ghetto Plainsman a personal struggle for you?

I’m a really private person, but I really needed to communicate what I see as going on right beneath our daily lives. I wanted to show the personal experience of another America that many have been unaware of. It was a way to draw attention to the movement. 

What are some plans for GPRC’s future?

I want to create the first ever Great Plains National Park. Hopefully we can get the buffalo back north of Fort Collins in Colorado, and I’d like to see in west Texas a strong reserve for our remaining Texas buffalo that are cramped on 300 acres and losing their ancestral herd culture and behavior. One signature project is the Fort Worth Prairie Park Initiative, which involves a giant metroplex urban area reconnecting with its ecological identity by creating a prairie wilderness on its outskirts.

With a small staff, how will GPRC accomplish its goals?

We have a paid and contract staff of about eight people, and we have a lot of volunteers. Always looking for more! If you go out and make the effort to integrate people into this ecological health movement I think that we can really have a national movement here. I want to redirect environmentalism to make it a cultural movement.

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