The award is named for George and Barbara Fell who founded the Natural Land Institute in 1958 and devoted their lives to the protection of natural areas in Illinois. They were committed to protecting Illinois’ natural heritage so rare and endangered plant and animal species would be here for future generations.
The presentation of the land conservation award will be at the Natural Land Institute’s Annual Dinner to be held on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 6:00–9:00 p.m. at Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Rd., Rockford, Illinois.
This is an opportunity to give recognition to an individual who has demonstrated distinguished achievement during an entire career.
George and Marilyn Johnson led multiple efforts during the past several decades to restore and manage land with innovative and creative solutions. In 2003, they began restoring 26 acres of farmland near Durand to prairie. In 2007, they donated a conservation easement to the Natural Land Institute to protect their land, the Mary Sackett Prairie, in perpetuity. George and Marilyn established the Harvard Seed Group, a cooperative endeavor by private landowners to protect and restore natural communities near Harvard. They protected High Point, the highest point of glaciated land in Illinois. George was a leader in the successful effort to protect natural areas that were threatened by proposed construction of Chicago’s third airport. He defended funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources by opposing Governor Blagojevich’s move to take funding from the Division of Natural Heritage and Nature Preserves Commission. George was a leader in the Volunteer Stewardship Network, and he was President of the Illinois Native Plant Society and a member of the editorial board for its journal. He has written numerous articles for newsletters and other publications that share his ideas, knowledge and methods of land restoration. Marilyn and George were active in the Illinois Prairie Path, the effort to convert an abandoned railroad to a preserve and recreational trail.
George’s enthusiasm, love of nature, and interest in human history and archeology have given him a unique ability to bring people together. Marilyn Johnson passed in 2016. “I never could have done it without Marilyn. She gave me the time and the motivation. She’s mingled in with all of this,” says George.