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NLI’s 2023 Annual Dinner and Presentation of the George and Barbara Fell Award

April 12, 2023 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm


Fran Harty, with wife and daughter, received the 2021 George and Barbara Fell Award.

Join more than 275 people from around the region and state who will attend this annual celebration of NLI’s work. The audience includes landowners, individuals, community and business leaders, and elected officials who care about the natural environment and want to learn more about how they can play a role in saving nature for future generations. Guests attend this event to network and get inspired to take action to help their community.

The social hour starts at 5:30 p.m. with a silent auction and then dinner starts at 6:30. The program beings at 7:15 with the award presentation and remarks from Executive Director, Kerry Leigh. We will also be taking this opportunity to celebrate the retirement of Leigh, who has been ED since 2013.  Donate to the Silent Auction here.

Recipient of the 2023 George and Barbara Fell Award

Natural Land Institute is pleased to announce that Kerry Leigh was chosen as the recipient of the 2023 George and Barbara Fell Award, which will be presented to her at the Annual Dinner on April 12. The George and Barbara Fell Award is named for NLI’s founder and his wife, who devoted their lives to the protection of natural areas in Illinois.

Kerry Leigh is retiring in June, having served as Executive Director for the past ten years. With an MA in Landscape Architecture, her passion is protecting and restoring the natural communities of northern Illinois. Lands preserved under her leadership include the William and Gayle Keefer Reserve, Richard Conklin Preserve, Lost Flora Fen, and its Rumage additiion, Townsend Glade, White Wood Ridge, as well as the Silver Creek Woods, Lind-McGeachie and Devil’s Backbone additions, the Schlo-Mar and Addison Foss Farms plus 5 conservation easements. Her creative approach has resulted in ongoing grants funding land acquisition, stewardship staff and special projects, such as Working Lands. Kerry’s passionate commitment to creative and enhanced partnerships, proactive stewardship, and her approach to collaborative land protection (including Bell Bowl Prairie) has increased recognition for NLI statewide.

Guest Speaker

The featured Guest speaker is Steve Apfelbaum, M.S., Founder, Chairman, Executive Director and Senior Ecologist: Applied Ecological Institute,  Steve also founded the Applied Ecological Services in 1978 (Brodhead, WI) which merged with Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) in 2021. He is a leading US consultant in ecological restoration programs. He earned his MS Degree in Ecological and Biological Sciences in 1978 and has authored/coauthored hundreds of technical studies, ecological program and restoration plans, and monitoring and compliance reports for research projects. In recent years, his focus has been soil carbon research and working with hydrologists to understand landscape-scale hydrologic changes associated with land settlement in the Midwest. Apfelbaum’s two books, Restoring Ecological Health to Your Land and his personal account of thirty years of restoring his Wisconsin farm in Nature’s Second Chance have received a wide range of awards. Steve is the 2010 Recipient of the  John T. Curtis Lifetime Achievement Award from the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Copies of Steve’s book, Nature’s Second Chance, will be for sale at the Annual Dinner and he will sign books following the program.


  • $65 each for non-members (includes a one-time, one year introductory membership)
  • $520 Table of 8 non-members (includes a one-time, one year introductory membership for each person)
  • $55 each for NLI members
  • $440 Table of 8 for NLI members
  • $1000 – Table Sponsorship – for 8, includes a business card size ad if confirmed prior to March 24, 2 bottles of wine. Contact Kim Johnsen at kjohnsen@naturalland.org or 815/964-6666 to reserve this table sponsorship.

Dinner Menu (select one entree for each guest)

  • Fresh Grilled Salmon Filet with  Lemon Dill Sauce, whipped garlic potatoes and fresh vegetables
  • Filet of Sirloin – 8 ounce Prime Cut complimented with Cabernet mushroom sauce, whipped garlic potatoes and fresh vegetables
  • Cheese Tortellini (vegetarian) with Primavera Sauce and fresh vegetables

Dessert: New York Cheesecake


The Registration Deadline is past. Please call the NLI office to see if any seats are still available: 815/964-6666.


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