Dear Governor Pritzker,
We are writing to express our concern and opposition to the configuration of the planned airport expansion by the Greater Rockford Airport Authority in Winnebago County, Illinois. The scheduled construction, on pause only until November 1st, will destroy a significant portion of the Bell Bowl Prairie and cause an unacceptable loss of rare habitat, plants, and animals on public land. This unique prairie remnant was identified in the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory and is home to several state and federally Threatened and Endangered species.
The Prairie State has less than 0.01% of its original prairie intact. Bell Bowl Prairie, like others, has been reduced to a small, isolated example of this once vast habitat. It has escaped the plow, paving, and sprawl. We support responsible economic expansion but ask that it be carried out in such a way that it will not impact severely imperiled plant communities and ecosystems. These natural features took millennia to develop at their current location, and if an attempt to relocate the prairie is made, only a fraction of transplants would survive.
Bell Bowl Prairie is a Category I, high-quality dry gravel prairie. The federally Endangered rusty patched bumblebee and the state Endangered large-flowered beardtongue and prairie dandelion were all recently recorded on the property. The destruction of this highly endangered ecosystem by a public agency would be terribly irresponsible. This prairie should be seen as a feather in the cap to the Greater Rockford Airport Authority for its historic, cultural, and scientific importance both locally and globally.
The Illinois Native Plant Society is dedicated to the study, appreciation, and conservation of the native flora of Illinois. We ask that you take immediate action to defend Illinois’s natural heritage. Protect Bell Bowl Prairie so that future generations can appreciate the natural beauty and unique flora and fauna that characterize this rare habitat. Preserving this remarkable landscape requires our persistence and your courage as it is an irreplaceable part of our natural heritage and can never be recovered once lost.
Sincerely, Emily Dangremond, President
on behalf of the Illinois Native Plant Society Board