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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Bell Bowl Prairie Update

Unless sufficient pressure is brought to bear, a major and truly unique very-high-quality prairie will be destroyed by a public agency. This would be a pathetic first.  

Rusty-patched Bumblebee 
An inhabitant of Bell Bowl on the Federal endangered list
photo copyright by Dan Mullen

Public agencies have a public trust. So far as I can determine, no public agency in Illinois has ever destroyed an area of comparable importance to Bell Bowl Prairie since natural areas were defined and mapped by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory in 1977. 

Despite some misinformed claims, a Grade A prairie cannot be moved and stay a Grade A prairie - especially one growing from a unique gravel deposit and with the hydrology present here. Any attempt to move it would destroy most of its biodiversity, forever. 

This ecosystem has developed its richness and complexity over the last 18,000 years - since the retreat of the last glacier. If it can be saved and dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve, it will be thriving 100 years from now, long after airports have been replaced by something better. One hundred years is just a blip in the history of this prairie. 

Cassi Saari has compiled an excellent well-illustrated and compelling summary of the facts, issues, and strategies. 

Jack White provided both a short and a longer statement as the expert most knowledgeable about the evaluation of Illinois Natural Areas.

The Natural Land Institute (NLI) has a page devoted to Bell Bowl updates. 

There was also a recent Strategies for Stewards post here.

It's too bad this issue is coming to the overall attention of the conservation community so late. Jack White is supporting the efforts of NLI chief contact Don Miller ( and - bless them both - they need more help as hard-working people, researching facts and options, strategizing, and creatively rousing public opinion to convince public officials that there are better options. 

Perhaps key are Rockford area residents, who are most likely to influence the three mayors and the airport commissioners they appoint. 

Perhaps state or federal officials and regulators will be key. 

But they'd need a lot of help from advocates who care. 

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