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Bustos supports development on Bell Bowl Prairie, with environmental considerations

Outside of the Bell Bowl Prairie
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
Outside of the Bell Bowl Prairie

Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is weighing in on a controversial expansion project at the Rockford Airport.

The latest planned expansion at the Chicago Rockford International Airport is coming under fire from environmentalists across the state. The Bell Bowl Prairie represents just under a quarter of the remaining high-quality gravel prairie left in Illinois, and the airport is scheduled to build a road over the land.

Critics of the plan argue that it threatens fragile species like the rusty patched bumble bee. The discovery of the bee temporarily halted the project but only until next month to coincide with the end of its foraging season.

In a written statement to WNIJ, 17th District Congresswoman Cheri Bustos calls the airport "a critical part of Rockford's economic success and future development." She adds, “as development continues, we must protect the surrounding environment.”

She's glad steps were taken to protect endangered species that could be in the area and says she supports efforts to move forward in a responsible manner.

Over the years, Bustos has shepherded millions of federal dollars into its expansion. Meanwhile, efforts continue to keep the latest project at bay.

Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.