The George & Barbara Fell Award

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.

Nominations for the 2019 George & Barbara Fell Award are now being accepted. Download the nomination form with guidelines here:     George and Barbara Fell Award Nomination Form 2019. Nominations are due on Monday, January 14, 2019.

The presentation of the land conservation award will be at the Natural Land Institute’s Annual Dinner to be held on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Rd., Rockford, Ill.  61107.


 The George and Barbara Fell Award recognizes…

  • Accomplishments that have significantly advanced natural area preservation, protection, management and restoration in northern Illinois.
  • Work in any area of activity (natural resource management, education, journalism, law, science) applied to stewardship of natural areas, restoration of natural areas, and the protection and understanding of natural diversity.
  • The best qualities of land conservationists the qualities exemplified by George and Barbara Fell through their lifelong dedication to the protection of natural areas.

This is an opportunity to give recognition to an individual who has demonstrated distinguished achievement during an entire career.

The 2018 George and Barbara Fell Award Recipient

The recipient of the 2018 George and Barbara Fell Award is 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.

Past recipients of the G&B Fell Award

  • 2018 – Debra Carey (Dixon, Illinois)
  • 2017 – George and Marilyn Johnson (Madison, Wisconsin)
  • 2016 – John White (Urbana, Illinois)
  • 2015 – Randy Nyboer (Morrison, Illinois)
  • 2014 – Dave and Nancy Voss (Rockford, Illinois)
  • 2013 – Jerry Paulson (Caledonia, Illinois)
  • 2012 – Judith (Judy) McCleary (Roscoe, Illinois)
  • 2011 – Richard and Karen Gadke (Capron, Illinois)
  • 2010 – Nancy Hamill Winter (Stockton, Illinois)
  • 2009 – William Howenstine (McHenry, Illinois)
  • 2008 – Russell Johansson (Rockford, Illinois)
  • 2007 – Dr. Richard Newsome (Beloit, Wisconsin)
  • 2006 – Lee Johnson (Shirland, Illinois)
  • 2004 – Mark Keister (Winslow, Illinois)
  • 2003 – Tim Keller (Sterling, Illinois)
  • 2002 – Mary B. Bushnell (Stillman Valley, Illinois)
  • 2001 – Jack and Joyce Armstrong (Rockford, Illinois)
  • 2000 – Keith and Mary Blackmore (Forreston, Illinois)
  • 1999 – Bruce Ross-Shannon (Rockford, Illinois)
  • 1998 – Dorothy Wade (Oregon, Illinois)
  • 1997 – Barbara Fell (Rockford, Illinois)