Bell Bowl Prairie

This page is dedicated to news and information about Bell Bowl Prairie, located on the Chicago Rockford International Airport property. The prairie has no legal protection status and the current expansion plans for the Airport threaten to destroy it (October 2021). This dry gravel remnant prairie was originally 25 acres and is now down to 12-14 acres due to construction already started then halted by the Airport. What remains includes 4.88 acres of high quality prairie with species listed on the INAI (Illinois Natural Areas Inventory) and this is the area where the Airport plans to build a road to go through it.

See also this website dedicated to Save Bell Bowl Prairie.

Prairie gentian (Gentiana puberulenta). Photo: Cassi Saari

Next Public Meeting:






Sign a Petition to Help Save Bell Bowl Prairie!

Join us in asking elected officials to use their influence to publicly advocate for a consensus solution that protects our environment AND the construction project goals. That would be a win-win-win for our state’s nature, culture and economy.

Sign the petition here.

Bell Bowl Prairie Videos

Saving Us. The fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie. Watch video here.

The story of Bell Bowl Prairie Lunch & Learn program by Illinois Environmental Council. Watch Zoom recording here.

Jack White, former director of the INAI, talks about the rare and fragile dry gravel Bell Bowl Prairie in this video.

Natural History

Read about why Bell Bowl Prairie exists and why it is valuable: Bell Bowl Prairie and Chicago Rockford International Airport, by Jack White

Photo by Ron Panzer, Pasqueflowers in bloom at the Airport Prairie (Bell Bowl Prairie), April 9, 1986

Pasqueflower, pictured above and to the right, is among the very first prairie plants to bloom in the spring. The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is known to forage on the genus Anemone, so a a brief review of Pasqueflower’s classification and nomenclature is in order. Pasqueflower is classified as either Anemone patens or Pulsatilla patens. (The species Anemone patens or Pulsatilla patens has been subdivided into several varieties, including variety multifida — which is the variety in Illinois.)

The most recent taxonomic treatment of Pasqueflower, in Flora of North America, combines the genus Pulsatilla and the genus Anemone, placing all of the species in the genus Anemone – as discussed in the following quotation from “The taxonomy of Anemone continues to be problematic. Anemone occidentalis and A. patens var. multifida (the first two taxa in this treatment) are frequently placed in the genus Pulsatilla Miller on the basis of the long plumose achene beaks, and A. acutiloba and A. americana (the last two taxa in this treatment) in the genus Hepatica Miller, primarily on the basis of the involucre immediately subtending the flower and the lobed, persistent leaves. Recent phylogenetic analyses of Anemone in the broad sense, however, indicate that both Pulsatilla and Hepatica should be subsumed within Anemone. While traditional morphologic characters are useful in distinguishing between Pulsatilla and Hepatica species, respectively, many other morphologic and molecular attributes are shared with Anemone, strongly suggesting that these genera should be united (S. B. Hoot et al. 1994).”  For more information about the Pasqueflower see: Bock Peterson. 1975. Reproductive Biology of Pulsatilla patens. AMN.

Legal Activities – Bell Bowl Prairie Temporarily Saved


  • Find the legal case, declarations, and exhibit documents here.


Jan. 20 – NLI’s 60 day notice letter of intent to file lawsuit 

On January 20, 2023 Natural Land Institute’s (NLI) lawyers sent a 60 day notice letter to Greater Rockford Airport Authority (GRAA), Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Federal Defendants (U.S. Department of Transportation, Secretary Pete Buttigieg; U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary, Deb Haaland; Federal Aviation Administration, Administrator, Billy Nolen; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Director, Martha Williams), of intention to file a complaint in federal court regarding the destruction of Bell Bowl Prairie.

The complaint will be filed in order to allege violations of the Environmental Species Act (ESA) because Federal Defendants, IDOT and the GRAA have failed (and are continuing to fail) to ensure that their funding, authorization, construction, expansion and operation of RFD does not jeopardize the health and existence of the federally-listed endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) – whose existence on Bell Bowl Prairie was confirmed on August 8, 2021 – have failed (and are continuing to fail) to ensure satisfaction of their ESA Section 7 obligations.

A letter sent by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Nov. 14, 2022 concurred with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that authorizes destruction of approximately 15 acres of Bell Bowl Prairie. NLI alleges that such an authorization is incompatible with USFWS’ own conclusions as to why the very existence of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is in jeopardy.

For more information about the effort to save Bell Bowl Prairie please visit

See documents below:


You Can Take Action In The Following Ways

Contact Local Leaders and Elected Officials on Your Own: use this list, Bell Bowl Contact List,  to contact local leaders and elected officials on your own and demand that they take steps to protect Bell Bowl Prairie.

Talking Points to use when contacting Greater Rockford Airport Authority Commissioners and staff, and elected officials.

Airport AND Prairie

Introduction to the Airport and Prairie Presentation

Airport AND Prairie Slides – by Domenico D’Alessandro – these slides show a concept plan that saves the prairie and accommodates the development proposed for the Chicago Rockford International Airport

Watch and hear Domenico’s presentation on Zoom here.

Planting Prairies at Airports Could Make Flying Safer

Keep in the Loop of Communication

Follow NLI on Facebook at Natural Land Institute and join the Facebook Group: Save Bell Bowl Prairie.

Follow us on Twitter @NLI1958

Follow us on Instagram @NLI1958

Use #SaveBellBowlPrairie in your social media posts about Bell Bowl Prairie.

Sign up for email news about Bell Bowl Prairie at Put “Add me to the Bell Bowl Prairie email distribution list” in the subject line.

Showing Support

Letters to the Editor, Guest Columns, Blogs, List of Organizations

Supporting Organizations

Sign the letter here to support saving Bell Bowl Prairie.  Ask Robb Telfer to add your organization/business name to the list. Send an email to him at:

Kerry Leigh, NLI Executive Director – Guest Columns

Rockford Register Star on Oct. 16, 2022: Small changes to Rockford airport expansion plan would save Bell Bowl Prairie

Rockford Chamber’s December (2021) issue of The Voice. See page 14, Sustainable Alternative Design for Chicago Rockford International Airport.

Oct. 7, 2021 – How the Chicago Rockford International Airport Can Be The Hero and Save the Bell Bowl Prairie_Op Ed Kerry Leigh 10.7.21

Jim Roberts – retired pastor:

Bell Bowl Prairie is an 8000 year old ancient artifact of what was
22 million acres of prairie in Illinois (only 0.1 % remain).
But the prairie is silent, has no cash, no board, or place at
the table, don’t know our language, haven’t been consulted,
heard, or listened to.  They are not coming to the airport
board meeting.  What would they say if we knew their language?
I write as if the queen bees, the rare habitat, the sacred soil,
and prairie flowers’ lives depend on it… and they, for real, do.
Can we find our voice to finally speak for these little ones, after
we have not seen, not heard, maybe not cared about them,
as they went about holding the world together?

It’s not time for more studies or meetings. Aretha was right!
It’s time for a little respect!  It’s past time to honor what is
ancient and sacred.
I think we are a smart species.  We have a big brain,
deep pockets, big plans, and also a soul.
We can have both a modern airport and an ancient prairie.
Jim Roberts’ comments to the Greater Rockford Airport Authority at their Dec. 16, 2021 Board Meeting available to read here: Jim Roberts comments Airport Board Dec 17 2021

Letters to the Editor and Guest Columns:

Bell Bowl Prairie Destruction Doesn’t Make Sense  (Rockford Register Star) by Kirby Doyle, Oct. 16, 2022:

Grow our local economy and save Bell Bowl Prairie (Rockford Register Star) by Paul Baits, President, Natural Land Institute, Jan. 29, 2022

Who’s trying to save rusty patched bumble bee? (Chicago Tribune) by Lori Ann Burd – Jan. 12, 2022

Rockford Airport Has the Power to Write the Next Headline (Rockford Register Star) by Jim Roberts – Dec. 24, 2021

Prairie can survive airport expansion with alternative design (Rockford Register Star) by Domenico D’Alessandro – Nov. 27, 2021

Region’s economy depends on development of airport’s midfield (Rockford Register Star) by Paul Cicero – Nov. 15, 2021

New leadership can help save Bell Bowl Prairie (Chicago Sun Times) by George Covington – Oct. 30, 2021 – Read PDF of the George Covington Editorial

Destroying the Bell Bowl Prairie is a choice that doesn’t need to be made (Rockford Register Star) by Judy Barnard – Oct. 30, 2021 –

Blog Posts
The Art of Actual Change with Derek Nielsen, Episode #14 Save Bell Bowl Prairie (featuring Robb Telfer, Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves)

News Media Coverage

Rockford Register Star – Jan. 25, 2023 – Land Institute: Nov. 14 letter from feds gives go ahead for Bell Bowl Prairie destruction OR view this PDF: RRStar_Land Institute Nov 14 letter_BBP destruction

Chicago Tribune – Jan. 25, 2023 – Environmentalists to file lawsuit over Rockford’s Bell Bowl Prairie, home to the endangered rusty patched bumblebee  OR view this PDF: Chic Trib_Environmentalists to file lawsuit_012523

Rock River Current – Jan. 23, 2023 – Natural Land Institute To Reactivate Legal Battle Over Potential Bell Bowl Prairie Destruction

WIFR TV23 – Dec. 19, 2022 – Activists say the fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie is far from over – Nov. 3, 2022 – The surprising value of a small patch of grass

National Wildlife magazine –  Oct/Nov 2022 – Fertile Legacy

WIFR TV23 – Sep. 28, 2022 – Proposed plan could benefit RFD expansion, Bell Bowl preservation

WIFR TV 23 – July 26, 2022 – Why activists won’t stop in the fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie

WIFR TV 23 – July 26, 2022 – Activists share updates in effort to save Bell Bowl Prairie: 

WIFR TV 23 – April 25. 2022 – Rockford airport taking serious action in Bell Bowl threat

WIFR TV 23 – March 9, 2022 – Bell Bowl Prairie saved for now

WREX TV 13 – March 7, 2022 – Federal review pauses construction through Bell Bowl Prairie

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – Mar. 2, 2022 – Construction at Bell Bowl Prairie halted until June

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – Feb. 21, 2022 – Next phase of airport construction plan at Bell Bowl Prairie remains unclear

WIFR TV 23 – Feb. 17, 2022 – Tensions rise to save Bell Bowl Prairie

Rockford Register Star – Feb. 17, 2022 – Airport director: Cargo, passenger service and jobs on rise in Rockford

Rock River Current – Feb. 16, 2022 – Rockford Airport Working To Land New Passenger Destinations

Rockford Register Star – Feb. 3, 2022 – Fate of Rockford’s Bell Bowl Prairie uncertain as legal battle progresses

Rockford Register Star – Jan. 2, 2022 – Airport: Group’s suit should be thrown out  Read PDF: Airport groups suit should be thrown out

Rockford Register Star – Dec. 18, 2021 – Rockford airport drops Natural Land Institute as Bell Bowl Prairie steward after 44 years

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU Radio) – Dec. 6, 2021 – Environmental group says Rockford Airport fell short of prairie preservation plans

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU Radio) – Nov. 16, 2021 – Pritzker talks about jobs, EVs, and prairies in a visit to northern Illinois

Rock River Current – Nov. 10, 2021 –  Trades Union Says Rockford Airport Expansion Must Move Forward ‘Without Further Delay’

WTTW – Nov. 10, 2021 – Rockford Airport Says Prairie Site Is Critical to Expansion

Rock River Current – Nov. 10, 2021 – Rockford Airport Says Roadway Can’t Be Redesigned To Avoid Bell Bowl Prairie

WTVO17/FOX39 – Eyewitness News – Nov. 9, 2021 – RFD awaits federal recommendation before continuing construction

WIFR TV23 – Nov. 9, 2021 – The push to save Bell Bowl Prairie receives a boost

WIFR TV23 – Nov. 9, 2021 – Rockford airport responds to Natural Land Institute lawsuit, expansion project

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – Nov. 9, 2021 – Citing safety and preservation, Rockford Airport to limit access to prairie during evaluation

WREX TV13 – Nov. 9, 2021 – Rockford airport addresses Natural Land Institute lawsuit, airport expansion

Rock River Current – Nov. 9, 2021 – Rockford Airport Responds To Lawsuit Over Bell Bowl Prairie, Limits Access To Land

Rock River Current – Nov. 8, 2021 – Prairie Watchdogs: Conservationists Keep Tabs On Construction Near Bell Bowl Prairie

Rock River Current – Nov. 4, 2021 – Here’s What’s Next For Natural Land Institute’s Lawsuit To Save Bell Bowl Prairie

Rock River Current – Nov. 3, 2021 – ‘We Have To Keep Caring’: Group Develops Next Steps To Save Bell Bowl Prairie

WREX TV13 – Nov. 2, 2021 – Natural Land Institute plans to work on incentive legislation after Bell Bowl Prairie frustrations

WREX TV 13 – Nov. 2, 2021 – Advocates announce litigation to challenge Bell Bowl Prairie demolition

WTVO17/FOX39 – Eyewitness News – Oct. 30, 2021 – Rockford residents celebrate saving Bell Bowl Prairie

Chicago SunTimes – Oct. 30, 2021 – New leadership can help save Bell Bowl Prairie

Outsider – Oct. 30, 2021 – Bees Vs Planes: 10,000-Year-Old Prairie Threatened by Airport 

WTVO17/FOX39 – Eyewitness News – Oct. 29, 2021 – Rockford officials react to Bell Bowl Prairie

WTTW – Oct. 29, 2021 – Bell Bowl Advocates Say Work Is Just Beginning: ‘This Is a Lot Bigger Than Rockford Airport’

Rockford Register Star – Oc. 28, 2021 – Rockford airport authority agrees to delay construction at Bell Bowl Prairie

WIFR TV23 – Oct. 28, 2021 – Rockford airport expansion project on Bell Bowl Prairie temporarily on hold

WTVO17/FOX39 – Eyewitness News – Oct. 28, 2021 – Rockford airport agrees to halt expansion project, spare Bell Bowl Prairie

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNU) – Oct. 28, 2021 – Rockford Airport suspends construction at Bell Bowl Prairie

WTTW – Oct. 28, 2021 – Bell Bowl Prairie Reprieve, Rockford Airport Temporarily Pauses Construction

WTTW – Oct. 28, 2021 – Bell Bowl Proponents Sue To Stop Rockford Airport’s Bulldozers, Say ‘Prairies Are Illinois’ Redwoods’

Rock River Current – Oct. 28, 2021 – Rockford Airport Halts Expansion Into Bell Bowl Prairie

SmithsonianMag – Oct. 28, 2021 – 10,000-Year-Old Rare Prairie Land and Rusty Patched Bumblebee Threatened by Airport Construction in Illinois

WREX TV13 – Oct. 28, 2021 – Rockford airport updating expansion project to avoid Bell Bowl Prairie

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – Oct. 28, 2021 – Local conservation group files lawsuit to temporarily stall construction at Bell Bowl Prairie

Rockford Register Star – Oct. 27, 2021 – Battle to save ancient prairie from Rockford airport expansion heads to court

Rock River Current – Oct. 27, 2021 – Federal lawsuit filed to halt airport expansion, save Bell Bowl Prairie

WREX TV13 – Oct. 27, 2021 – Advocates announce litigation to challenge Bell Bowl Prairie demolition

WIFR TV23 – Oct. 27, 2021 – Advocates announce litigation to challenge Bell Bowl Prairie demolition

Rockford Register Star – Oct. 26, 2021 – Preservationists continue to fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie from airport expansion

Rock River Current – Oct. 26, 2021 – Bulldozing Bell Bowl Prairie. Stop. Telegram Campaign Aims To Save Land From Airport Expansion

WREX TV13 – Oct. 25, 2021 – Environmentalists and Rockford airport officials beg to differ over the Bell Bowl Prairie

WIFR TV23 – Oct. 25, 2021 – Environmentalists fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie land

The Mike Nowak Show – Oct. 24, 2021 – Watch video: Is a Parking Lot More Valuable Than A Prairie

Yahoo News – Oct. 23, 2021 – Endangered bumblebee is blocking Ill. airport expansion that will destroy rare prairie — but only for another week

Chicago Tribute – Oct. 22, 2021 – Endangered bumblebee is blocking Rockford airport expansion that will destroy rare prairie — but only for another week

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – Oct. 22, 2021 – Perspective: The birds, the bees, and the Bell Bowl Prairie

WTTW Chicago – Oct. 21, 2021 – Bell Bowl Prairie Proponents Have a Proposal to Save Rare Land and Allow Rockford Airport to Expand

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – Oct. 20, 2021 – Conservationists look for alternatives and call on politicians to help protect prairie from airport expansion

Illinois Public Media – Oct. 20, 2021 – The 21st Show – Topic: Bell Bowl Prairie

Rock River Current, Oct. 20, 2021 – ‘We Want Airport And Prairie’: Group Pitches Plan To Save Bell Bowl Prairie And Allow Rockford Airport Expansion

Audubon Great Lakes, Oct. 19, 2021 – Bell Bowl Prairie Provides Habitat for Rare and Threatned Species of Wildlife and Nature for Birders Across Illinois

The Rock River Times, Oct. 13, 2021 – Kerry Leigh’s Op Ed on page 3

WIFR TV23 News, Oct. 12, 2021 – Save Bell Bowl Prairie meeting held at Burpee Museum

WREX TV 13 News, Oct. 12, 2021 – Residents gather to discuss next steps for Bell Bowl Prairie

Chicago Tribune, Oct. 12, 2021 Op Ed_Robbie Telfer_Chicago Tribune 101221

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – October 7, 2021 Bustos supports development on Bell Bowl Prairie, with environmental considerations

WTTW News – October 6, 2021 Race Is on To Save ‘Primeval’ Patch of Illinois Prairie Threatened by Rockford Airport Cargo Expansion

Kerry Leigh was a guest on The Mike Novak Show on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021 to talk about the importance of Bell Bowl Prairie. Watch the video: Can One Bee Rescue A Valuable Remnant Prairie

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – September 29, 2021 – Rusty Patched Bumble Bee stalls construction over Bell Bowl Prairie

Northern Public Radio (WNIJ/WNIU) – September 24, 2021 – Construction Over Bell Bowl Prairie Continues Later This Year

Rockford Register Star – September 24, 2021 – Bumblebees, cuckoos among endangered wildlife group wants to save at Rockford airport

Rockford Register Star – September 24, 2021 – Photos by Scott P. Yates

WTVO17/FOX39 – Eyewitness News – September 23, 2021 – Local environmentalists fight to save prairie at Chicago Rockford International Airport

WIFR TV23 News – September 21, 2021 – RFD continues its expansion project on one of Illinois’ few remaining prairies

WREX TV13 News – September 21, 2021 – Rockford airport expansion has conservationists concerned

WTVO17/FOX39 – Eyewitness News – September 20, 2021 – Environmentalists work to save prairie at Chicago Rockford International Airport

The range of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is on the Federal Endangered Species List and was observed at Bell Bowl Prairie in the summer of 2021. This image shows the historic range in gray, currently likely to be present in red, unlikely presence but important for conservation in yellow. (Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus on How to Save the Bees from Extinction

Public Meetings

Dec. 7, 2022

Bell Bowl Prairie advocates held a public meeting on Dec. 7, 2022 to provide information about ongoing efforts to save this 8,000 year-old prairie located on the grounds of the Chicago Rockford International Airport. The meeting was held at the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County headquarters and by Zoom. They shared thoughts about why we love prairies, why Bell Bowl Prairie is important, and what inspires us to keep fighting. Updates on the consultation process, conversations with elected officials, and legal processes were provided. For more information about this effort visit:

Watch the recording of the Zoom meeting here.

Slides from the meeting: 2022-12-07 Public Meeting Slides

Oct. 13, 2022

Save Bell Bowl Prairie advocates held a public meeting on Oct. 13, 2022 to celebrate the art and action of Bell Bowl Prairie. Images that have been created over the past year during the effort to save the prairie include graphic designs, paintings, posters and banners, postcard, T-shirt and yard sign art, poetry and music. Some of the artists were guest speakers during the meeting, as well. The meeting included updates on talks with elected officials, the consultation, and legal processes, as well as a moment of action where attendees who attended in person signed postcards. Zoom attendees were invited to make a post on social media.

Watch the recording of the Zoom meeting here.

See the meeting slides here.

September 8, 2022

Advocates for Save Bell Bowl Prairie held a public meeting by Zoom and in person on Sep. 8, 2022 to inform the community about efforts to save the prairie located at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. It is under threat of destruction due to a road being built through the highest quality area of the prairie, as well as future airport expansion. Topics covered consultation updates, construction plan reminder, a report by Geosyntec (Dennis Dreher), legal updates, an interview with an Advocate (Jennifer Kuroda), a fall Strategy and upcoming events. Watch this video to learn more. Also visit the website:

Watch the Zoom recording here.

See the meeting slides here:

July 26, 2022

Save Bell Bowl Prairie advocates held a public meeting on July 25, 2022 by Zoom and in person at the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County Headquarters in Rockford, IL. Speakers talked about the new Biological Assessment and consultation process, 2 new road alternatives compared to the Airport’s plan to build a road through the prairie. There were legal and advocacy updates, and three young people talked about their work to advocate for saving the prairie and why they are doing this. For more information visit:

Watch the meeting here.

See the meeting slides here.


April 12, 2022

Save Bell Bowl Prairie advocates hosted a public meeting on Zoom on April 12 that featured special guest speaker Bernice Benedict Popelka. She fought to save Peacock Prairie (Chicago area), now called Woodworth Prairie and wrote a book about it, “Saving Peacock Prairie”. She shared interesting stories about her effort and many tidbits of wisdom and advice such as, “Keep telling the story, never go away”, “this rare virgin prairie can never be replaced, even in a thousand years”. Watch this video to hear her and learn about upcoming events, DIY resources, and updates on the lawsuit and consultation process in the effort to Save Bell Bowl Prairie.

Watch and listen to the meeting here.

See meeting slides here: 2022-04-12 SPPB Public Meeting Slide Deck

Links posted in the Zoom chat during the meeting:

March 8, 2022

A public meeting was held by Zoom on March 8, 2022 to update the community on efforts to save Bell Bowl Prairie (located on Chicago Rockford International Airport property). This is the recording of that meeting. A review of community engagement efforts, legal and legislative processes, and fundraising efforts was presented. Participants broke up into groups based on several different topics to form Prairie Task Forces (Teachers/educators, Artists & Graphic designers, Writers & Media, Event organizers, Consultation/legal expertise). If you are interested in helping on one of these task forces contact

Watch the meeting HERE.

Meeting slides: 2022-03-08 SBBP Public Meeting Presentation Slides


Feb. 21, 2022

This meeting included a background summary of the Chicago Rockford International Airport expansion process that started in 2019, steps in the process of the Environmental Assessment (EA), why prairie advocates are trying to protect the prairie on airport property, and updates on advocacy efforts, the Environmental Consultation process, legal activities, and fundraising. They also celebrated accomplishments so far and then attendees broke out into 5 groups to brainstorm ways to take action and came back together to share top ideas from each group. Those ideas will be discussed by the SBBP Working Group and considered for future actions. For more information about this effort visit: For a detailed timeline of events:… To donate to help with legal and other expenses for the initiative visit:…

Watch Zoom recording of the meeting HERE.

See the meeting presentation slides here: 2022-02-21 SBBP Public Meeting Presentation

Several links were posted in the chat throughout the meeting. Find them here: Chat links_pub mtg Feb 21


Feb. 8, 2022

Save Bell Bowl Prairie advocates met by Zoom on Feb. 8, 2022. The agenda included a recap of how we got here, legal updates, a review of the environmental consultation process, fundraising and legislative updates, teacher/student/class learning opportunities and actions the community can take. To donate to fundraising and other expenses visit: To learn more about this effort visit:

Watch the Zoom recording of the Public Meeting HERE.

View the meeting slides here: 2022-02-08 SBBP Public Meeting Presentation

Jennifer Anderson-Cruz gave a brief overview of the National Environmental Policy Act as it relates to the Environmental Assessment and Consultation processes. Here are the slides: NEPA Presentation1_Jennifer Anderson-Cruz  Here is an example Environmental Assessment Worksheet: NRCS-CPA-52_11-2019_Worksheet5


January 11, 2022

Save Bell Bowl Prairie advocates held a public meeting by Zoom on Jan. 11, 2022, to give updates on what’s been happening in the effort to save the prairie located on Chicago Rockford International Airport property. Speakers included Kim Johnsen, Amy Doll, Matt Evans, Domenico D’Alessandro, Katie Kucera and Laura Stamp. Domenico shared new ideas for how to expand the airport and save the prairie, Amy and Matt gave point by point responses to a recent article written by Paul Cicero, President of the Greater Rockford Airport Authority. Katie Kucera shared action items for the community to participate in and teacher Laura Stamp talked about ways to get school students, neighborhood, social, church, and other types of groups involved in learning about the value of prairies and the endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. She has developed curriculum for this and will host a training session on Feb. 12. Watch this video to learn more about all of these different topics.

Watch the Zoom meeting recording here.

See the presentation slides here: 2022-01-11 SBBP Public Meeting Presentation

Additional Resources from the meeting are below:

  • Endangered Species Protection Board:
  • Illinois Nature Preserves Commission:
  • Sign up to monitor Bell Bowl Prairie:
  • FAQs about the Consultation process related to Endangered Species:
  • Land owners in Ogle County:
  • Photos of an area south of the airport that was discussed in the meeting:[email protected]/51779739052/in/album-72157685858730502/
  • Airport Authority building address is 60 Airport Dr. Their board meeting is Jan. 27 at 5pm in the auditorium of this building seen in the photo/google maps link:,+Rockford,+IL+61109/@42.2013419,-89.0986409,3a,75y,192.92h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sWiOg5NImouYkmsKadQLTdA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x8808ea837bb1624b:0x415ce9eea456e407!8m2!3d42.2010328!4d-89.0987356


    December 7, 2021

    The meeting on this date provided updates on what’s been happening in the effort to save the prairie located at Chicago Rockford International Airport. There was a review of how we got here and updates on activities since the Nov. 2 meeting, as well as a discussion about actions items that people can help with. A new letter writing campaign to Governor Pritzker was announced and it can be found above in the section called: Take Action to Save Bell Bowl Prairie (red text).

    Watch the Zoom meeting recording here.

  • See the presentation slides here: 2021-12-07 SBBP Public Meeting Presentation
  • November 2, 2021

    Kerry Leigh, Ex. Dir. of Natural Land Institute gave an update on the ongoing legal work to save Bell Bowl Prairie and said she will be meeting with a design team to work on potential alternatives to the airport expansion. Others talked about their experiences in activities to celebrate the prairie during the past week and the efforts of the past six weeks.

    Watch the Zoom video recording of the meeting HERE.


    October 26, 2021

    Save Bell Bowl Prairie advocates gave an update on community awareness and advocacy efforts. Clay Bolt gave a presentation about the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (about 5 minutes into the Zoom recording). Next steps and action items were shared with attendees.

    Watch Zoom Recording HERE.


    October 19, 2021

    This public meeting featured Dominico D’Alessandro talking about his alternative vision and concept design for the expansion of the Chicago Rockford International Airport that would keep Bell Bowl Prairie preserved (hear his

    presentation about 35 minutes into the Zoom recording). Other speakers included Kim Johnsen (NLI), recapping accomplishments to date, Lindsay Keeney (Illinois Environmental Council), with a Legislative update, Zach Grycan (NLI), talking about the ecological aspects and history of Bell Bowl Prairie, Amy Doll and Katie Kurcera (Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves), talking about goals and the website, and Jennifer Kuroda (Sinnissippi Audubon Society), reviewing action items, and a question/answer period at the end.

    See presentation slides HERE.Watch Zoom recording HERE.

  • October 12, 2021

    NLI, Sinnissippi Audubon Society and Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves hosted a public meeting at Burpee Museum of Natural History to update the public on work of the respective organizations and many volunteers to save Bell Bowl Prairie. Speakers included Kim Johnsen (NLI Director of Marketing & Membership), Zach Grycan (NLI Director of Stewardship), Amy Doll (Director of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves), Kerry Leigh (Executive Director of NLI), Jennifer Kuroda (President of Sinnissippi Audubon Society), and many attendees. After the presentations attendees broke into groups to brainstorm ideas for public advocacy and action, political avenues, regulatory, legal and other expertise, community gatherings, and for general ideas. Participants reconvened and shared ideas that were discussed. Individuals were empowered to take specific action steps from the ideas presented, as well as the to take the following action steps:

    1. Spread the word (tell 10 people this week)
    2.  Write to the Mayor of Rockford and the airport commissioners asking them to support a green redesign (see contacts list above)
    3. Fill out the IEC Action Alert (letter to Gov. Pritzker above)
    4. If there are others that can help connect them with Don Miller,
    5. Be prepared to show up on Oct. 23 (to the Greater Rockford Airport Authority board meeting)

    Link to the Zoom recording of the meeting here.  Use passcode: Rh8C9Bh$


    September 30, 2021

    NLI and Sinnissippi Audubon co-hosted a public meeting about Bell Bowl Prairie on Thursday, September 30, 2021. Speakers included Kerry Leigh (NLI Executive Director), Barbara Williams, Don Miller and Jennifer Kuroda (President of Sinnissippi Audubon Society). A question and answer session followed. It was announced that Don Miller will be coordinating efforts to save Bell Bowl Prairie. A working group will be established to help with this effort. Contact Don at

    Watch/listen to the Zoom recording of this public meeting here.


    Photo of Jack and Barbara White by Joni Denker

    John (Jack) White, former director of the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, tells Greater Rockford Airport Authority that Bell Bowl Prairie on the airport property is Outstanding and Why

    Read Jack’s statement that he read to the GRAA at the Sep. 23 board meeting and a follow up statement about the prairie and the many reasons why “Bell Bowl Prairie is a rare treasure. And fragile: if you try to move it, it will disintegrate and die away, replaced by weeds.”

    Click here: Bell_Bowl_Prairie_statements_by_John_White to read it.

    Please share it with everyone you know and on all of your social media accounts.


    Message from the Executive Director, Kerry Leigh

    Sep. 20, 2021

    As many of you have heard, the Chicago Rockford International Airport expansion plans include development on this prairie, a portion of which is an Illinois Natural Areas Inventory Site (INAI) that has not only historic significance to Rockford from the early days of Camp Grant and the Civilian Conservation Corps, but hosts a significant natural dry gravel prairie community that supports rare and endangered species. It is one of the few of these left in Illinois and many migratory birds rest there on their journey, attracting birders from across the Midwest. NLI’s founder, George Fell, fought to protect this piece of our historic Illinois landscape and at one time saved it from the bulldozers.

    The entire prairie is 25 acres, with 4.88 acres listed as the INAI. The Natural Land Institute and its many partners have a long history of stewarding the Bell Bowl Prairie. With our partners from the Byron Forest Preserve District, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Boone County Conservation District, the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, the Rockford Park District, the Winnebago County Soil and Water Conservation District, Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy and others, the Natural Land Institute has participated in and coordinated stewardship days over the years to clear out invasive species and protect the site’s natural diversity. Just this year the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, a federally endangered species, was observed on the prairie.

    Since that discovery, NLI has participated in conversations with the IDNR and the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board and the Airport Authority. The IDNR has re-opened their consultation process to re-evaluate the development request.  This consultation process is only advisory, and working with the parties to alter the footprint of the development is also being discussed.

    In our opinion the economic benefits to our community of the airport expansion are not greater than the ecological benefits we receive from this rare and remnant habitat. Less than 1/100th of 1% of our native prairie landscape remains. We can no longer in all good conscience call ourselves the Prairie State. NLI believes that a responsible and sustainable solution is possible and will do everything we can to help make that happen. NLI therefore fully supports a revision to the development plans to avoid the prairie, and commits to assisting the airport with future management of this important, historic, and rare prairie.

    NLI is deeply saddened by these current plans and urges you to contact your state and local representatives to let them know how important this historic remnant prairie is to the biodiversity of our state, and to Rockford. You can keep track of what’s happening on the Facebook group ‘Save Bell Bowl Prairie









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