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USFWS to begin reviewing biological assessment of Rockford airport's proposed $50 million cargo expansion

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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Outside the Chicago-Rockford International Airpot

Rockford Airport Officials announced today that the planned road over a rare patch of prairie where a federally endangered bumble bee was found last Fall could adversely affect the listed species.

Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must determine if the project could jeopardize the continued existence of the Rusty Patched Bumblebee species, which was listed as federally endangered back in 2017.

Zach Oakley is the Deputy Director of Operations and Planning at the airport. He says that the endangered species act consultation is officially transitioning from informal to formal consultation.

“Last week," said Oakley, "the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] transmitted the biological assessment that the the airport and consultants had prepared for the FAA [and] submitted it to [the U.S.] Fish and Wildlife [Service] to initiate the formal consultation portion.”

This means that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now charged with evaluating the biological assessment prepared by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Greater Rockford Airport Authority. The service has 135 days from today to deliver a biological opinion on the effects of the proposed project on the Rusty Patched Bumblebee.

The fate of the bumblebee and the rare patch of prairie where it was found last fall will be known, at the latest, by September 7th.

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.