Tensions rise to save Bell Bowl Prairie

Tensions rise to save Bell Bowl Prairie
Tensions rise to save Bell Bowl Prairie(WIFR)
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 6:29 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Efforts increase after a local group fights to save one of the state’s last remaining prairies.

The expansion project at Rockford International Airport (RFD) is scheduled to resume sometime this spring, but prairie advocates say they need transparency from airport leaders and what protection will be given to endangered species that call the bell bowl home, for construction on the project to resume.

Prairie youth advocates who protested RFD Executive Director Mike Dunn’s State of the Airport speech Wednesday say that’s the latest in their efforts to save one of the state’s last remaining prairies. Natural Land Institute executive director Kerry Leigh says the younger generation has a right to be concerned.

“It’s no longer just a local issue,” says Leigh. “We’re not any longer just saving a prairie or saving an owl, but we’re saving us and people understand that the 21st-century climate problems are now at a tipping point.”

Advocates communicate with the airport but say their pleas fall on deaf ears. They argue the airport shouldn’t use public money to build a patch of road on the prairie, which is home to several endangered species, like the rusty patched bumblebee.

“I understand that the airport is a major economic necessity for Rockford. But it looks like the airport could be developed in a way that would preserve the prairie. Other airports have done this, the Chicago Rockford International Airport should be no exception,” says Sinnissippi Audubon Society member Bill

Those in support of the prairie believe if the airport acknowledges the importance of Bell Bowl, they could come to an agreement to benefit both sides.

“If that road was redesigned and they made an effort to protect that prairie, that would all go away,” says Leigh.

Leigh thinks the deadline to resume construction could be pushed to the beginning of June.

23 News reached out to officials from RFD to comment on the situation and current timeline for the project. Leaders there did not have a comment at this time.

A timeline of events to save Bell Bowl Prairie can be viewed here.

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