2017 Events


Annual Dinner
and Presentation of the George and Barbara Fell Award

Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Rd., Rockford, Illinois

Please join the Natural Land Institute’s Board of Trustees and Staff to network, connect and hear about the impact your support has made to preserve and protect natural areas in our region. The program includes the presentation of the George and Barbara Fell Award to George Johnson and his wife Marilyn (posthumously). Featuring Guest Speaker Arthur Melville Pearson, author of Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement.


6:00 – 6:45 p.m. Social Time, Cash Bar
Book Sales and Signing: Arthur Melville Pearson, Author, Force of Nature

6:45 – 7:00 p.m. Welcome and introductions by Mark Maffei (President, Board of Trustees)

6:45 – 7:45 p.m. Dinner and Conversation
Please make your dinner selection when you register online:
Pasta Fresco (vegetarian) - pasta with light marinara sauce, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella
Chicken Romesco - chicken breast with roasted red pepper almond sauce, herb-roasted potatoes and oven roasted seasonal vegetables
Maple Walnut Crusted Salmon - with herb-roasted potatoes and oven roasted seasonal vegetables
Dessert: Turtle Cheesecake

7:45 – 8:15 p.m. Presentation of the George and Barbara Fell Award to George and Marilyn Johnson

8:15 – 9:00 p.m. Comments, Kerry Leigh, Executive Director, Natural Land Institute
Comments, Wayne Rosenthal, Director, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Guest Speaker, Arthur Melville Pearson

9:00 p.m. Book Sales and Signing: Force of Nature

Make Your Reservation Today

Cost: $45 (NLI member), $60 (non-member, includes 1 year introductory NLI membership).

Table of 10: $450 (member) or $600 (non-member), includes a 1 year introductory NLI membership per person).

Please click here to make your reservations for the Annual Dinner.

Thank you to our Sponsors

Chinkapin (Table) Sponsors $1,000:
Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd.
Rockford Park District
WilliamsMcCarthy, LLC

Swamp White Oak $500:
Boone County Conservation District
Conservation Land Stewardship, LLC
Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation
Stonebrook Capital Management
Viking Chemical

The 2017 George and Barbara Fell Award Recipients

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.

About Arthur Melville Pearson:

An accomplished writer, Arthur penned the biographical treatment of George B. Fell included in A Legacy of Natural Lands, the 50th anniversary publication of the Natural Land Institute. Pearson was so inspired by Fell that he embarked upon an in-depth examination of his life and accomplishments, resulting in the full-length book Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

Pearson says, “Like George Fell, I strive for beauty–in my former life as an actor, in my current life as a writer and as Director of Chicago Program for the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. For years, I’d taken a solo backpacking trip out west–to the Badlands of South Dakota, the Rockies of Colorado, the River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho, and many other idyllic destinations. But the best part of each trip was crossing the Mississippi River back into my home state of Illinois. As a writer, I found myself most attracted to the remnant prairies, wetlands and woodlands of The Prairie State. In the course of learning and writing about them, I discovered George Fell, who devoted his life to protecting these precious lands for future generations to enjoy.” To read about Arthur’s other published works go to: https://fellforceofnature.com/other-published-writing/

Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement

Sir Peter Crane writes in his foreword to the book that “leaders come in many different flavors, and Fell, for all his strengths, was also complicated, uncompromising and single-minded to a fault. To be sure he was not easy. Fell illustrates the general rule that an individual’s greatest strength is so often also their greatest weakness.” In short, George Fell was as fascinating a man as he was a conservationist of staggering accomplishment. He was a Force of Nature in the lands he himself protected in perpetuity. He remains a Force of Nature in the organizations he launched that continue to protect lands far into the future.

Prescribed Burn Training Workshop
Sunday, March 26, 2017 – 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Learn how to manage your own land or when volunteering for NLI or other conservation organizations. In this workshop you will learn how to conduct a prescribed burn and tips on best practices from Zach, a Certified Prescribed Burn Manager. The workshop will be based on Chicago Wilderness’ Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Crew Member Training Manual.

The morning session will be classroom style at Rockton Fire Protection District (201 N. Blackhawk Blvd. Rockton, IL 61072), lunch will be on your own, and the afternoon session will be at Nygren Wetland Preserve (3190 W. Rockton Rd., Rockton), where participants will assist with a late spring prescribed burn, weather permitting. Cost: $62 (Includes the 155 page Burn Manual).

Topics to be covered will include discussion of fire behavior and suppression, effective use of hand and power tools, effective use of water to aid fire suppression, conducting a prescribed burn, ecological effects of fire.

Registration deadline: Fri., Mar. 24, 2017. Register and pay by phone: 815/964-6666, email: info@naturalland.org, or mail a check to: Natural Land Institute, 320 S. Third St., Rockford, IL 61104.


Spring Public Stewardship Day
Saturday, May 6, 2016 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Location/Parking: Burr Oak Valley Preserve is located on Elevator Road in Roscoe, Ill. Limited parking will be on site - look for flags at the entrance (south side of road, one tenth of a mile east of Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, 7404 Elevator Rd., Roscoe, IL 61073). Additional parking is available at the church.

Admission: Free

May is Invasive Species Awareness Month! Join us to learn more about invasive species and help protect the natural habitat of Burr Oak Valley Preserve by removing non-native invasive species like garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle. This is a fun outdoor activity for families, scout and 4-H clubs, all kinds of groups, and individuals of all ages. Registration requested for this FREE activity by Friday, May 5, 2017.


Family Nature Day
Saturday, June 24, 2017, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Location: Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 West Rockton Road, Rockton, Illinois

Admission: Free

Bring the Family and Discover the Joy of Nature! Kids to grandparents will have fun exploring the wonders of the blooming prairies and wetlands by visiting 10 learning stations to earn a Nygren Wetland Junior Naturalist Badge for children and a special reward for adults. Past learning stations included: Prairies, Butterflies & Seeds, Forests, Wetlands, Birds, Mammals with Two Toads Environmental Experiences, Pollinators, Invaders, Macktown Living History & Archeology, Raptors with Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education. Guided tours of the Anne Meyer Wildflower Garden will be ongoing throughout the event. Cost is free. Registration is requested for this FREE event by Friday, June 23, 2017. Please be sure to say how many kids are in your party. Call 815/964-6666, Email: info@naturalland.org.


Party on the Prairie
Saturday, July 15, 2017, 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Location: Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 West Rockton Road, Rockton, Illinois

Admission: $75

YNygren Wetland Preserve provides a perfect setting for Natural Land Institute’s every-other year fundraiser, Party on the Prairie, with midsummer wildflowers like Wild Bergamot, False Sunflower, White Prairie Sage and so many more in full bloom. Guests will enjoy a unique experience with the elegance of an outdoor dinner party under a big tent overlooking the prairies and wetlands. A full dinner with dessert, live music, silent auction, guided tours and self-guided walks around the preserve give guests an opportunity to see and experience the beauty of the natural areas and wildlife habitat. Come early for horse drawn carriage rides. Reservation Deadline: Friday, July 7, 2017. To order tickets (Tickets available to purchase online after June 1, 2017) and for more information call 815/964-6666, info@naturalland.org, www.naturalland.org.


Nature Poetry & Prose
Thursday, August 3, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Location: Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 West Rockton Road, Rockton, Illinois

Admission: Free

Join us under the big tent overlooking the prairie for a lovely summer evening while featured writers read their nature themed poetry or prose. Complimentary refreshments will be served. Registration requested for this FREE program by Wednesday, August, 2, 2017. Call 815/964-6666 or email info@naturalland.org.


Fall Prairie Harvest Day
Saturday, September 23, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Location: Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 West Rockton Road, Rockton, Illinois

Admission: Free

Enjoy the end of summer with your family or group outside by collecting seeds from native wildflowers and grasses. This is a great activity for all ages of individuals, families, scout and 4-H clubs, church and corporate groups. Registration requested for this FREE activity by Friday, September 22, 2017. To register call 815/964-6666 or email info@naturalland.org

October (OAKtober)

OAKtober Hike
Saturday, October 21, 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Location: Burr Oak Valley Preserve, Roscoe, Illinois

Admission: Free

Celebrate OAKtober – Oak Awareness Month with us. All ages will enjoy a FREE guided tour of Burr Oak Valley Preserve, a private natural area owned by Natural Land Institute. Zach Grycan, NLI’s Director of Stewardship and Ed Cope, Restoration Ecologist, will lead a hike through the rolling hills and oak savannas of this preserve and talk about the ongoing restoration work, general differences between red and white oak trees and their environmental benefits. Hikers should dress for the weather including long sleeves, pants and sturdy shoes. Moderate to difficult level hiking on and off trail. The hike will last about an hour and a half. Please register for this FREE guided tour by Friday, October 20, 2017. Call: 815/964-6666, or email: Info@NaturalLand.org.

LOCATION /PARKING: Burr Oak Valley Preserve is located on Elevator Road in Roscoe, Ill. Parking will be on site - look for flags at the entrance (south side of road, one tenth of a mile east of Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, 7404 Elevator Rd., Roscoe, IL 61073). Additional parking is available at the church.