The Natural Land Institute is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2018 George and Barbara Fell Award is Debra Carey,

Debra Carey

Executive Director of the Dixon Park District. Debra is a naturalist, educator and administrator, as well as a tireless advocate for the preservation and restoration of natural land in Lee County and the lower Rock River watershed. She spearheaded the preservation of Amboy Marsh, Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary, Ryan Wetland and Sand Prairie, and Lowell Forest Nature Preserve, and helps to manage local natural areas through the Lee County Natural Area Guardians, a subcommittee of the Lee County Soil & Water Conservation District. Debra has served on-and-off as chair of the Lee County NAGs, and was the first President of the Birdsong Chapter of Illinois Audubon Society, and steward of both Amboy Marsh and Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary.

Debra Carey embodies the persistent care and work that is often needed to protect a natural area. Her skills as a manager of volunteers, an educator, grant writer, and advocate are what are needed to get the job done, even if it takes many years. She sees a need and does whatever it takes, and enlists whoever she can to get it done.

The award is named for George and Barbara Fell who founded the Natural Land Institute in 1958 and devoted their lives to the protection of natural areas in Illinois. They were committed to protecting Illinois’ natural heritage so rare and endangered plant and animal species would be here for future generations.

Alan Branhagen

The presentation of the land conservation award will be at the Natural Land Institute’s 60th Anniversary Celebration Dinner to be held on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 5:30–8:45 p.m. at Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Rd., Rockford, Illinois. The dinner will include a social hour, live Swing and Jazz music by the Tom Flanigan Quartet, a silent auction, a presentation, “60 Years Sustainable”, by the Executive Director, Kerry Leigh, the presentation of the George and Barbara Fell Award and Guest Speaker, Alan Branhagen. Branhagen will sign his most recent book, Native Plants of the Midwest, which will be available for purchase at the event.

The 60th Anniversary Celebration Dinner event sponsors are: BUR OAK ($2,500): Dan and Susan Swift; CHINKAPIN OAK/TABLE ($1,000):  Ed and Vicki Eggers, Dan and Sue Loescher, Applied Ecological Services, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd., Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, Nicor Gas; SWAMP WHITE OAK ($500): Boone County Conservation District, Conservation Land Stewardship, LLC, Viking Chemical.

Tickets cost $60 each for non-members (includes a one year introductory membership) and $45 each for NLI members. Tables of 10 are available for $600 (non-members) and $450 (NLI members). A Table Sponsorship is available for $1,000. Call 815/964-6666 for more information and to order tickets or purchase online at by March 7, 2018.

About the Natural Land Institute

The Natural Land Institute will be celebrating 60 years of preserving natural land throughout 2018. NLI is a 501(c)3, non-profit land trust and conservation organization based in Rockford, Illinois, which has protected more than 17,300 acres of natural land in Illinois since 1958. NLI’s current service area covers twelve counties in northern Illinois including Winnebago, Boone, northern DeKalb, Ogle, Lee, Bureau, Henry, Rock Island, Whiteside, Carroll, Jo Daviess and Stephenson Counties. NLI’s mission is to create an enduring legacy of natural land in northern Illinois for people, plants and animals. The President of the Board of Trustees is Mark Maffei. For more information and to donate:

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