ROCKFORD (WREX) — Leaders from the Natural Land Institute are not only celebrating but also hashing out concerns after the Chicago Rockford International Airport announced it would pause its expansion project on the Bell Bowl Prairie.
The institute says the work for this 8,000 year old remnant prairie is far from over.
Last Wednesday, the NLI filed lawsuits against the Rockford Airport Authority hoping to buy time to come up with a new expansion design that would avoid the prairie all together.
Then the next day, the airport announced it would redesign a "portion" of its $50 million cargo expansion project and halt construction until March 1.
The NLI responded, on that same day last week, by withdrawing some legal actions while acknowledging it could file lawsuits in the future.
Then on Tuesday night, the NLI and community members came together to continue to call on RFD for collaboration. No one has gotten a response.
But in the meantime, they're hoping to hash out concerns like the proposed roadway and the endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
"They've agreed to take out one of the detention basins but they haven't said anything about the road," said NLI Executive Director Kerry Leigh. "The road that's proposed there goes through the middle of the high quality portion of the site and pretty much chops it into two."
It's a small step the NLI says could pave the way for state legislation.
"We need to start taking a look at how can we can provide more incentives for land owners to protect these areas," said Leigh.
In a statement provided to 13 WREX last week, RFD says construction within the Bell Bowl Prairie will be suspended until the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services conclude testing regarding the impact of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee found on site.
It hopes to resume the project in the spring of 2022.
WREX reached out to RFD for an update which said no one was available to give a statement.