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 2018 George & Barbara Fell Award are now being accepted. Download the nomination form with guidelines here: Fell Award Nomination Form 2018. Nominations are due on Thursday, January 18, 2018.

The presentation of the land conservation award will be at the Natural Land Institute’s Annual Dinner to be held on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 6:00 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 2017 George and Barbara Fell Award Recipients

George and Marilyn Johnson led multiple efforts during the past several decades to restore and manage land with innovative and creative solutions. In 2003, they began restoring 26 acres of farmland near Durand to prairie. In 2007, they donated a conservation easement to the Natural Land Institute to protect their land, the Mary Sackett Prairie, in perpetuity. George and Marilyn established the Harvard Seed Group, a cooperative endeavor by private landowners to protect and restore natural communities near Harvard. They protected High Point, the highest point of glaciated land in Illinois. George was a leader in the successful effort to protect natural areas that were threatened by proposed construction of Chicago’s third airport. He defended funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources by opposing Governor Blagojevich’s move to take funding from the Division of Natural Heritage and Nature Preserves Commission. George was a leader in the Volunteer Stewardship Network, and he was President of the Illinois Native Plant Society and a member of the editorial board for its journal. He has written numerous articles for newsletters and other publications that share his ideas, knowledge and methods of land restoration. Marilyn and George were active in the Illinois Prairie Path, the effort to convert an abandoned railroad to a preserve and recreational trail.

George’s enthusiasm, love of nature, and interest in human history and archeology have given him a unique ability to bring people together. Marilyn Johnson passed in 2016. “I never could have done it without Marilyn. She gave me the time and the motivation. She’s mingled in with all of this,” says George.

Past recipients of the G&B Fell Award

  • 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)