The Blackland Prairie is a distinct ecological region that roughly corresponds with the most developed area of Texas — the Interstate 35 corridor from the Red River to 300 miles south to San Antonio. Less than 1% of this prairie is protected, a few thousand acres of unspoiled grassland out of what Burke estimates were once millions. At a TEDx Kids talk at Southern Methodist University, Burke called it “one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in North America.”
Burke grew interested in the Blackland Prairie while volunteering at the Connemara Conservancy in Allen. He has since won the President’s Environmental Youth Award and awards from Disney, the Scouts and others for his work conserving the ecosystem. At the Twelve Hills Nature Center in Dallas, he propagated native grasses, using seeding techniques to elbow out invasive grasses like Bermuda.
Staff at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area agreed to help Burke tag quail and release them in the center, one of the conserved areas of the Blackland Prairie. More than four fifths of the northern bobwhite quail, whose name derives from their call, have died out.