The tallgrass prairie has persisted in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas for both biophysical and socioeconomic reasons, and has been one of the key elements in the development of the region. A population boom in the latter part of the 19th century and the subsequent increase in cattle in the 1860s-1870s were key factors in the transition of this landscape into a major cattle grazing region by the turn of the 20th century. At various points in the past 150 years, this social ecosystem has exhibited remarkable resilience in episodes of both drought and over-grazing. The resilience of the bluestem pastures had implications for stability in the rural economy. Yet, the land use regimes have undergone change since Euro-American arrival, thus the human signature on the land is by no means static. We approach the human-environment relationship as an ecological dialogue that includes both biophysical and social elements mutually shaping each other, and driven by human interests as much as biophysical factors. Current threats to the tallgrass prairie, including fragmentation and invasive species are discussed.