4 Federal Agencies Want Illinois Prairie Remnants Lawsuit Dismissed | State and Region

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ROCKFORD — Four agencies have joined the Rockford Airport Authority in asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to protect a 25-acre prairie remnant from an airport expansion project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of the Interior, Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a court filing last week that the Natural Land Institute has no legal status or jurisdiction to protect the Bell Bowl meadow, which is located on Rockford airport property.

“This case should be dismissed accordingly,” the filing states, the Rockford Register Star reported.

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The Natural Land Institute lawsuit, filed in October, claims federal agencies violated federal and state conservation laws when they approved a $50 million expansion project at Chicago Rockford International Airport.

The lawsuit alleges the construction work will disrupt the Bell Bowl prairie and that it is a remnant of an ancient prairie that is home to rare and endangered plants and insects like the rusty bumblebee.

The Natural Land Institute says its members have helped manage the prairie since the 1950s. The group wants the Greater Rockford Airport Authority to redesign the expansion, including a service road that would cross the prairie in Rockford, about 80 miles away. (130 kilometers) northwest of Chicago.

The project is on hiatus until March 1 so airport officials can determine if the federally protected rusty plate bumblebees are hibernating on the prairie.

The parties are due back in court on February 17.

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