The reverse side of a newly released quarter features a regal fritillary butterfly against a backdrop of bluestem and Indian grass — both of which are native to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. (U.S. Mint)
TOPEKA — The U.S. Mint on Thursday released a new coin set honoring Kansas’ Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the only site within the National Park Service dedicated to the natural history of the tallgrass prairie.
The quarters feature a regal fritillary butterfly against a backdrop of bluestem and Indian grass — both of which are native to the national preserve — on the reverse of the coin.
Randy Bilbeisi, superintendent of the preserve, which is north of Strong City, said the U.S. Mint chose the preserve from five qualifying areas in Kansas.
“Tallgrass prairie being selected as a site for coins representing America’s beauty is very important to us,” Bilbeisi said. “It’s huge to see the regal fritillary, an important pollinator here, and the bluestem representing the prairie on the coin.”
The coin, which is now available for purchase, is the penultimate release of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program launched in 2010. The program will conclude with a final coin to be issued in 2021.
When finished, the program will include 56 quarter-dollar coins depicting national parks or other national sites in each state or territory and the District of Columbia.
“These programs hold real value in helping Americans of all ages, especially our children, learn more about U.S. history, geography and culture highlighting national parks and sites throughout the country,” said Edmund Moy, former director of the Mint, during the unveiling of the quarter program.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, selected to represent Kansas in the collection, supports a variety of grasses, flowers and animals in a tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The preserve currently occupies about 11,000 acres in the Flint Hills, the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie left in North America.
At its peak, this ecosystem covered 170 million acres of land across the continent.
The national preserve, established in 1996, also aims to protect the region’s ranching history. Cattle still graze in some areas of the park.
Bilbeisi said he hopes the coin will bring more attention and interest to endangered ecosystems.
“What we are about is education and preservation,” Bilbeisi said. “The more attention tallgrass prairie gets, the more schools that will be interested to learn about this fragile ecosystem. So there is a lot of pride that comes with being one of 56 quarters printed.”
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