Each year The State Journal-Register awards the People and the Prairie Conservation Award to people and groups that have made a significant difference to Central Illinois in the areas of conservation, outdoor recreation and education.
The Frank Bellrose award, named for the internationally respected waterfowl researcher who passed away in 2005, is awarded to a professional in a natural resources field whose efforts are above and beyond that of normal service. This year, Lawrence Zettler, professor of biology at Illinois College has been given this distinction due to his extraordinary contributions in the recovery of the Hawaiian orchid species, Platanthera holochila. His students: Erin Wood, a senior from Smithton; Tegan Fugate, a senior from Manito; Lillian Moller-Jacobs, a senior from Rockford; Shanna David, a sophomore from Trivoli; Amber Furness, a senior from Canton; Jenifer Fortney, a senior from Arcola; Haleigh Ray, a junior from Havana; John McCormick, a junior from Decatur and Mackenzie Oak, a junior from Taylor Ridge; have also been awarded the People and the Prairie Award for their efforts in aiding with the orchid recovery project.
The team has been growing the rare Hawaiian orchids in the lab at Illinois College. This complicated process is time consuming and incredibly detailed, even the smallest error could mean the loss of a federally endangered orchid seedling. Zettler, along with students Wood, Fugate and Moller-Jacobs, will travel to Hawaii in the spring to reintroduce the most mature plants to the wild and increase the population of these Hawaiian orchids significantly.