Saturday, November 29, 2008

Renewable Energy Field, Association Category

Emcee: Debra Poneman

Robert and Sonia Vogl have been active in the fields of environment and energy during their entire careers. They have taught, consulted, written, spoken and created organizations.

They taught at the elementary, secondary and college levels. Eventually they retired from the graduate faculty of the Lorado Taft Campus of Northern Illinois University where Bob taught environmental quality, alternative energy and research, and Sonia taught field ecology, seasonal and prairie studies and interpretation.

They restored a tall grass prairie in Deer Grove Forest Preserve, the first Illinois prairie planting outside the Morton Arboretum. They also maintained a prairie remnant at the Taft Campus while on the faculty there. They initiated the preservation of the 239 acre Kyte River Bottoms and work with the Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County both as advisors and as restorationists.

They founded the nonprofit Friends of the Rock River, which led to the formation of the Department of Natural Resources first Local Partnership Council. Since then, LPCs have covered nearly the entire state. As members, they make recommendations to the IDNR regarding natural areas destined for preservation and restoration.

Approximately 60 acres of their 180 acre home farm are in natural areas restoration projects. They created one of the first Illinois prairie restorations on Conservation Reserve land, and planted and maintain a tallgrass prairie as a stream bank protection project and a stream bottomland forest restoration project. They maintain a 25 year-old garlic mustard control and forest rehabilitation program in their oak forest.

While working on their Ph.D.s at the University of Michigan, they were members of the Planning Committee which piloted the nation’s first Earth Day Event there.

They designed the Public Participation Program on Water Quality for Illinois, initiated the creation of the Lake Michigan Federation through Open Lands, initiated the Illinois Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program, and were consultants on environmental and energy issues to the lllinois Department of Environmental Quality, the lllinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Institute for Environmental Quality, the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

They developed the outdoor and environmental education program for the Chicago Public Schools which served 6,000 students a year and ran for 25 years. They designed a program of environmental education utilizing the museums in Chicago, including the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Historical Society and the South Shore Country Club art facility.

They have presented programs on ecology, environment, alternative energy and solar electricity in over a dozen countries and have developed several energy curricula.

Since retiring from university teaching, they co-founded the Illinois Renewable Energy Association, a 501(c)(3) organization and organized the First Illinois Renewable Energy Fair in Ogle County in 2002. The Fair has become an annual event and continues to grow as the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. As officers of the IREA, they serve as energy and ecological restoration consultants; the fees they receive for consultantships go into their organization.

They also have installed a 3.2 kilowatt grid-connected photovoltaic system and a one kilowatt Bergey wind generator which provide 70% of their home electrical power. They provide tours of the installations for the public. They have encouraged and helped several other families to install their own renewable energy systems, encouraged several schools to install solar electric systems and are working with park districts to do the same.

They intend to continue protecting the environment and encouraging the use of renewable energy, their life's passion, which links them to a higher level beyond that of merely surviving another day.

How beautiful--let’s give a warm round of applause to Robert and Sonia Vogl as they are inducted into the Environmental Hall of Fame.

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