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updated: 3/29/2013 11:02 AM

Jerry Paulson honored for his conservation career

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  • Jerry Paulson stands next to the George and Barbara Fell Award he received on March 19, 2013 at the Annual Dinner of Natural Land Institute in Rockford, Illinois.

    Jerry Paulson stands next to the George and Barbara Fell Award he received on March 19, 2013 at the Annual Dinner of Natural Land Institute in Rockford, Illinois.
    Virginia Scott

Kim Johnsen

Hundreds of people from all over Illinois and as far away as Washington D.C. attended Natural Land Institute's Annual Dinner on March 19, 2013 at Cliffbreakers in Rockford to celebrate with and honor retiring Executive Director, Jerry Paulson. The Primary Event Sponsor of the Annual Dinner was Dave and Nancy Voss.

Jerry Paulson was selected by the Board of Trustees of the Natural Land Institute to receive the 2013 George & Barbara Fell Award to honor his lifetime of conservation work. Paulson has been working in the land conservation field for 42 years and will retire from Natural Land Institute as Executive Director on March 31, 2013, a position he has held since 2000.

Through his leadership, Natural Land Institute was able to protect more than 5,000 acres of natural land, yearly membership income increased 80% and the Endowment funds, which ensure the longtime viability of the organization, grew from $75,000 to more than $850,000. For every $1 raised from members Paulson leveraged $10 in grant revenue for land protection and restoration projects. He led restoration of hundreds of acres of habitat for birds and other wildlife, the creek, wetlands, prairies, and woodlands at one of the Institute's largest natural areas, Nygren Wetland Preserve,

Jerry's whole life has been dedicated to conservation work. While growing up on a farm he became interested in plants and wildlife. After earning degrees in horticulture and plant pathology he returned to Rockford where he worked for Natural Land Institute's founder, George Fell, for ten years. He then went to work for the Lake Michigan Federation in Chicago, McHenry County Defenders, American Farmland Trust, and The Wetlands Initiative before returning to Natural Land Institute.

He has served on several boards and advisory councils during the years including Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Audubon Council of Illinois, Sierra Club Wetlands Committee, Illinois Environmental Council, Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Governor's Groundwater Advisory Council, Prairie State Conservation Coalition, Boone County Farmland Protection Project, Kishwaukee River Eco-System Partnership, and the Greenways Task Force of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency on Planning.

In addition to the George and Barbara Fell Award, Jerry was also recognized at the Annual Dinner for his dedication and leadership in helping protect and preserve natural land and wildlife habitat with the following certificates and award:

•Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, Presented by retired Congressman Don Manzullo

•Distinguished Service Award from the Board of Commissioners and the men and women of the Rockford Park District, Presented by President Jack Armstrong and Commissioners Doug Brooks and Tyler Smith

•Certificate of Congratulations from State of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka

The Dedicated Conservationist Award was presented to Paulson, in January, to recognize his long term dedication to the protection and restoration of natural resources by the Winnebago County Soil & Water Conservation District at their 72nd Annual Meeting.

For more information about Natural Land Institute call 815-964-6666 or visit: or

About the Natural Land Institute:

The Natural Land Institute is a non-profit land conservation organization whose mission is to create an enduring legacy of natural land in northern Illinois for people, plants, and animals. Since 1958, the Natural Land Institute has helped to preserve and restore more than 16,000 acres of natural land in Illinois.