Agreement halts Illinois airport work that threatens prairies
A conservation group has reached a deal with an airport in northern Illinois that is temporarily halting work on a project that would destroy an 8,000-year-old stretch of grassland.
The Bell Bowl Prairie, located on the Rockford Airport property, is targeted for demolition as part of a $ 50 million expansion of the airfield’s cargo operations.
Longtime stewards of the prairie, the Natural Land Institute, sued the Greater Rockford Airport Authority this week, seeking an injunction to temporarily stop bulldozers from destroying the 25-acre (10.1 hectare) prairie.
The nonprofit conservation group announced Thursday that an agreement to suspend this work until March 1, 2022 has been reached through the U.S. District Court with the Greater Rockford Airport Authority, its board of commissioners and its director executive, reported WTTW-TV.
Construction of an access road that would cross the prairie’s highest quality habitat was scheduled to resume on November 1.
The temporary suspension gives the Natural Land Institute more time to convince the airport authority to explore alternative design concepts that protect the prairie and the endangered rusty bumblebee, the institute said in a statement.
“The Natural Land Institute will continue to seek legal remedies to protect the rest of the prairie and ensure that we have access to prairie monitoring,” the organization said in its statement.
Airport officials, meanwhile, said they were redesigning part of the expansion project, removing a retention pond that was to be built in the Bell Bowl Prairie footprint.
The airport’s freight expansion is expected to create hundreds of construction jobs and up to 600 new permanent jobs at Rockford Airport, about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.