Save Bell Bowl Prairie, The Hidden Gem by the Chicago Rockford International Airport

Save Bell Bowl Prairie is a grassroots effort to protect an ancient, remnant gravel prairie called Bell Bowl Prairie. The prairie is modestly sized at 12-14 acres (reduced from 25 from recent construction). The most important area of this is only 4.88 acres. The prairie is located adjacent to the Chicago Rockford International Airport and smack dab in an area set for major expansion and construction.

Illustrations by Liz Anna Kozik

Illinois, nicknamed the Prairie State, was once covered with prairies. Now hardly any remain.

Graphic by Cassi Saari

Bell Bowl Prairie is minuscule in size but represents a wildly diverse landscape, home to numerous state threatened or endangered animals and plants. Birds such as Black-billed Cuckoo and Loggerhead Shrike nest there. This is the only spot in Illinois I’ve seen Blue Grosbeaks. This prairie remnant holds some of the most striking and unique prairie plants including Large-Flowered Beard Tongue, Leadplant, Prairie Gentian and more.

Blue Grosbeak pair (photo taken in 2012)

Many important insects call Bell Bowl Prairie home, including the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. The bee is listed as a critically endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act and endangered in Illinois. Saving the prairie will help protect this and many other insects, pollinators we desperately need.

Sadly, the Endangered Species Act is not nearly enough.

Currently, Save Bell Bowl Prairie is working to get as many people as possible to contact elected politicians to protect this land. It is a time for concerned citizens to step up and convince these politicians to do the right thing.

Who to contact, even if you do not live in Illinois

Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell:
Deputy Governor Andy Manar:
@GovPritzker on Instagram
@JBPritzker and @IDOT_Illinois on Twitter

Rockford Mayor Thomas McNamara:
@CityOfRockfordIllinois on Instagram
@CityOfRockford and @tmcrkdf on Twitter

Illinois Senators Durbin and Duckworth
@DickDurban, @SenatorDurbin, @SenDuckworth on Twitter

By Liz Anna Kozik

You can not put a price tag on protecting Bell Bowl Prairie. The economic gain from bulldozing it over is next to nothing compared with the thousands of years it took for the prairie to become what it is. If we callously destroy everything beautiful around us and hold up “growth” as the only thing worthy of striving for we will eventually be left with nothing truly of value.

We should not even be at this point, begging to protect a tiny scrap of land. We should be investing billions of dollars into expanding ecosystems and restoring land to make Illinois the Prairie State once again. Will you help? Don’t wait and act now!

See: Planting Prairies at Airports Could Make Flying Safer

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