Oct 22, 2021 - News

Environmentalists fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie

A prairie.

Photo by Joni Denker. Courtesy of the Natural Land Institute.

Environmental advocates are racing to try and save the Bell Bowl Prairie, a rare swath of Illinois prairie scheduled for destruction as part of the Chicago Rockford International Airport expansion. 

Why it matters: It's part of just .0001% of prairie land remaining in the state.

  • It supports a fragile ecosystem of endangered plant and animal life, including the black-billed cuckoo, the large-flowered penstemon and an important pollinator called the rusty patched bumblebee.
  • Construction was halted when the bumblebee was spotted on the land this summer but is set to resume on Nov. 1.

The latest: Prairie advocate and Natural Land Institute executive director Kerry Leigh urged airport authorities to consider environmental mitigations such as permeable road surfaces to retain storm water in the area.

What they're saying: Prairie supporters floated an alternate concept Tuesday to redesign the path of the airport road to reduce wildlife destruction. But so far, Leigh tells Axios they have heard "nothing back."

  • "We assume airport officials will not respond," Leigh said. "And it makes me sad that they do not understand the value of what's here."

The other side: Airport officials tell Axios they completed all of the environmental assessments required to build on the land and are working to relocate endangered plants, including the large-flowered beardtongue, prairie dandelion, prickly pear, aromatic aster and others.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more