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Perspective: The birds, the bees, and the Bell Bowl Prairie

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Illinois is the prairie state, but we’ve lost 99.99% of our prairies to development and agriculture. On November 1st another patch of the remaining less than one tenth of one percent of prairie will be gone forever, unless citizens in the WNIJ listening area choose to act.

The Bell Bowl Prairie surrounding Rockford International Airport is a prairie remnant – it supports multiple Federally Endangered species including the Rusty Patched Bumblebee. It’s also a relic of Illinois’ past – it is one of very few remaining prairies in Illinois and represents cultural connections with an ecosystem that itself is highly endangered.

Prairies are critical to peoples’ health and wellbeing. They scrub toxins out of the air and water, absorb flood waters, and their deep soil root systems hold carbon more reliably than forests do in many instances. Bulldozing one more patch of prairie to make a wider runway at the airport is short-sighted. It robs future generations of the opportunity and health benefits prairies provide.

In the context of the climate conference that begins in two weeks, where officials globally will attempt to build consensus on a set of environmental agreements to prevent us from reaching dangerous climate tipping points, the plight of Bell Bowl prairie is brought into sharper relief. The tradeoff of losing this carbon-sequestering, biodiversity-supporting prairie for more and bigger deliveries is not worth the cost. Go to SaveBellBowlPrairie.org to see what you can do to prevent the loss of this iconic prairie habitat. The birds and the bees need you.

Holly Jones is a Restoration Ecologist at Northern Illinois University, where she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy.