Environmentalists are working to save the prairie at Chicago’s Rockford International Airport

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – Local environmental groups are working to save a prairie at Chicago’s Rockford International Airport. The expansion plans include a road across part of the habitat, but construction was halted after an endangered species was sighted.

Now the groups hope that the airport administrators will listen and rethink plans to destroy part of the prairie.

Jack Armstrong, a board member of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, said construction on the Bell Bowl Prairie was recently suspended because of the sighting of Rusty Patched Bumblebees, an endangered species. Now he hopes that the work will be permanently suspended or the route will be changed.

“If they built a road there, it would of course destroy the plants and animals in that area,” said Armstrong. “The prairie itself is very unusual, it has some very unusual plants. It has flowers and a bunch of other grasses on the prairie that are rare in Illinois. “

Mike Dunn, executive director of Chicago Rockford International Airport, said they “have voluntarily agreed with the state to temporarily suspend construction on a very small property. The state and the airport agreed that there was a report on a certain bumblebee species in the affected area. “

“The way the road looks now is the most direct route across the prairie,” said Armstrong.

Kerry Leigh, the executive director of the National Land Institute, said Bell Bowl Prairie was not legally protected. It’s listed as a natural area inventory location, but the airport authority has full control over what happens to it.

“We now have less than 1/10 of 1% of the prairies left in the state of Illinois,” Leigh said. “I really think that economic development and the protection of our natural resources should go hand in hand, and one doesn’t preclude the other. It’s not just the plants and animals, it’s the benefits that natural resources offer us. They are our clean air, our clean water. The world of natural resources provides everything that we exist. “

Dunn said that at the request of the state, the airport agreed to rescue facilities within the construction corridor.

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