Rockford roots of Nature Preserves system to be celebrated

Rockford roots of Nature Preserves system to be celebrated


Conservationists from throughout the Midwest will converge on Rockford on May 5 and 6 to celebrate the life of George B. Fell, founder of the internationally-acclaimed system of Illinois Nature Preserves.

Rockford native George B. Fell created the Nature Preserves Commission in 1963 and established Illinois as the state with the most comprehensive laws for protecting valuable and rare natural lands. The Illinois Nature Preserves system has earned international recognition and was a model of creation of 14 other state nature preserve programs. The commission was recognized at the 1991 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as an efficient and effective way to provide long-term protection to high-quality natural areas and habitat for endangered and threatened species.

Fell was a visionary conservation leader whose dedication to land preservation includes the founding of Rockford’s Natural Land Institute in 1958 and the creation of county conservation districts in Illinois. On the national level, Fell played a leading role in establishing The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Areas Association.

The anniversary of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission will be celebrated at a banquet in Rockford on May 5. The program will feature Dr. Brian Anderson, a past director of the commission, who will discuss George Fell’s role in the natural areas preservation movement in North America. Nature photographer Michael Jeffords will present his gorgeous color slides of selected Illinois Nature Preserves. Freelance writer Arthur Pearson will tell of the George Fell biography he is currently writing, set for publication later this year. On May 6, the Nature Preserves Commission will hold its quarterly meeting at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford.

This spring, the Natural Land Institute and the Severson Dells Education Foundation are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the commission by offering guided walks to some of the most spectacular nature preserves in the Rock River Valley.

Pasque flowers, the first and most spectacular prairie flowers of spring, can be seen April 9 at the Wilson Prairie Nature Preserve. Spring wildflowers carpet the forest floor of the Hartley Memorial Woods Nature Preserve, scheduled for a tour April 16. The series of “Wildflower Walkabouts” continues through July 17.

For information about walks to Illinois Nature Preserves, call the Severson Dells Education Foundation at 335-2916 or the Natural Land Institute at 964-6666. Walks are free to members of these organizations or $3 per person for non-members for each walk.

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