ROCKFORD (WREX) – Environmentalists across the Rockford area take a stand in hopes of saving a local landmark from permanent extinction.
“We’re losing our legacy,” said Holly Jones, professor of biology at Northern Illinois University. “We are losing an ecological heritage and ancestry that we will simply never get back.”
The current construction of RFD on Bell Bowl Prairie is set to bring additional economic growth and jobs to the area, but construction stopped in August to protect the new Rusty Patched Bumble Bee discovery.
In addition to being home to some of the rarest creatures, prairies like these are also manufacturing facilities for the manufacture of medicines used by Native Americans.
RFD said it is trying to relocate plants and has even invited the IDNR to come to the prairie to harvest plants and seeds of state importance.
“There’s only a long history of Native American and indigenous communities using tons of different plants for tons of different things, including medicines,” Jones said.
Jones is not against expanding the airport, but suggests an ethical compromise.
“I’d just take the alternative that won’t get rid of the prairie,” said Jones. “There is plenty of room for them to expand this airport without destroying the prairie.”
The airport said it was working carefully with resource agencies to avoid damaging impacts on endangered species and plants.
Time will tell if a compromise will be made, but Jones says business decisions like this should be carefully considered, especially if they involve a historic site like the Bell Bowl Prairie.
RFD’s assistant director of operations and planning, Zack Oakley, made the following statement:
“In anticipation of several construction projects, Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) has undergone the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) environmental assessment process, which was completed in November 2019. RFD followed all FAA, federal, state, and local government guidelines and rules required to continue development in the assessment area. This included public announcements, public gatherings and notices to all media in the region. As required, RFD completed the 2019 environmental review and finally received a No Significant Impact (FONSI) result from the FAA in November 2019. Since then, construction work has started in the areas that were included in the 2019 environmental review. “