Legacy of Rockford native

Legacy of Rockford native


Dignitaries from throughout the Midwest are meeting in Rockford to celebrate the legacy of George B. Fell, the founder 40 years ago of the system of Illinois Nature Preserves. Among them will be freelance writer Arthur Pearson, author of the George Fell biography.

In the publication scheduled for release later this year, Pearson describes George Fell’s story that begins in his hometown of Rockford, moves to the national level in Washington, D.C., where he helped start The Nature Conservancy, and returns to Illinois with the creation of the Natural Land Institute and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

“At the heart of the biography,” Pearson says, “is this man whose unique combination of skills and passions drove him to bring together a land conservation movement that arguably, if he hadn’t started it, might not have been launched. George’s story culminates in creation of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, an organization that stands as a model for similar programs in many states.”

Pearson’s recent environmental writing has appeared in Chicago Wilderness magazine and Illinois Steward magazine. He has written short fiction and non-fiction for a variety of literary journals including Snowy Egret, the nation’s oldest journal of environmental writing. He has won several awards for his stage and screenplays, including an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship.

The 40th anniversary of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission will be celebrated at a banquet at Cliffbreakers in Rockford May 5. Among the dignitaries in attendance will be Joel Brunsvold, new director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, many former and current members of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and representatives of local and national conservation organizations.

The program will feature Dr. Brian Anderson, a past director of the Nature Preserves Commission, who will discuss George Fell’s role in the natural areas preservation movement in North America. Nature photographer Michael Jeffords will present a pictorial tour of selected Illinois Nature Preserves. Arthur Pearson will speak about the Fell biography.

On May 6, the Nature Preserves Commission will hold its quarterly meeting at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford. The Natural Land Institute and the Severson Dells Education Foundation are celebrating the anniversary of the commission by offering guided walks this spring and summer to some of the most spectacular nature preserves in the Rock River Valley.

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