Bell Bowl Prairie remnant threatened by Rockford airport expansion

The Chicago Tribune reviews the situation of another remnant prairie under threat (we last posted on proposed development adjacent to Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Cook County, Illinois), but this case involves the potential destruction of an area that lacks protection and is of an even rarer type. The remnant is located on land belonging to the growing Rockford International Airport, and is included in a 280 acre expansion plan.

Bell Bowl is a gravel prairie, considered among the rarest of the rare in Illinois, according to John White, a consultant who is a former chief ecologist for The Nature Conservancy. 

Emily Dangremond, President of the Illinois Native Plant Society Board, has asked for Illinois Governor Pritzker’s intervention to stop construction on Bell Bowl Prairie. She recites the sad statistic that less than 0.01% of the Prairie State’s original prairie remains.

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.

…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.

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