Where Dan Kane grew up, in Friendship, Wis., he was inspired by the environment around him; so much so that he made geology and the environment his life’s work.

Now, the retired executive director of the Boone County Conservation District (BCCD) is being recognized for his conservation efforts, having recently received the George and Barbara Fell Award from the Rockford-based Natural Land Institute (NLI). The award honors those individuals who work to protect the natural areas of Illinois.

“I enjoyed looking at the rock formations in the [Dells] area,” Kane said of his childhood interest in geology, also mentioning, “I grew up a farm.”

“My dad had us outside doing things on the farm,” he continued, as well as experiencing the environment through camping and canoeing.

“He was a strong influence,” Kane said of his dad. “He had a conservation ethic.”

Kane related that his experiences outdoors with his dad became “part of the geology appeal.”

He elaborated that he was curious when exploring the geological environment around him, and “I was wondering, how did this happen?”

Besides his dad and the natural environment, Kane also remembers “having good science teachers,” all inspirations that became guiding forces in choosing a geology career. A further influence was the work of Aldo Leopold, author of “A Sandy County Almanac,” which Kane said is “about the sand counties in Central Wisconsin.”

He recalled how he had been working on a farm, where the farm manager encouraged him to go to college, adding that the idea of a career working outdoors “was very appealing to me.”

Kane received a B.S. degree in Geology from Winona State University, undertook a geology field study at Southern Oregon State College (now University), became a licensed professional geologist with the State of Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, at one time held certification as an erosion and sediment control specialist with the Soil and Water Conservation Society, and was formerly licensed as a morphological soil evaluator with the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

Kane spent his career in Boone County, first as a resource conservationist with the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District, from June 1987 to April 2000, then served as executive director of the BCCD from April 1, 2000, until his retirement in August 2023.

During his career, Kane was involved in local, regional and statewide organizations, including the Illinois Association of Conservation Districts and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Northern Regional Groundwater Protection Planning Committee; and among other volunteer efforts, served with the Kishwaukee River Ecosystem Partnership, the Boone County Water Preservation and Protection Action Committee, the local Parks and Conservation Foundation, the Kishwaukee Chapter of Pheasants Forever, the Boone County Agricultural Conservation Easement and Farmland Protection Commission, and the Region 1 Planning Council Technical Advisory and Environmental committees.

Kane helped revise and update the Boone and Winnebago Regional Greenway Plan between 1995 and its current edition; was part of a team to create “Lessons in a Land Ethic” for teachers that is part of the Leopold Education Project (LEP) and implemented by the Aldo Leopold Foundation; and further promoted the LEP to expand the program.

Kane recalled one of his proud accomplishments with the BCCD, as an avid canoeist, was being “part of a collaborative effort” to offer canoe safety to youth and families.

However, he modestly emphasized that as with all things related to his role at the BCCD, “I had such a great team of people to work with; board and staff. Everybody was critical to the work we did.”

Joshua Sage, current BCCD executive director, commented on why he nominated Kane for the award, saying, “Dan Kane spent his career being a champion for the protection and conservation of our region’s natural resources.

“Dan used his skills in advocacy, partnership building and scientific knowledge to advance the mission of the Boone County Conservation District.

“The dedication Dan has for conservation and his community [is] why he is so deserving of the prestigious George and Barbara Fell Award.”

When he found out he had been given the award, Kane said, “I was shocked,” adding that he knows former award recipients.

“In my eyes, they loomed large,” he commented with a chuckle. “I’m very humbled by this.”

The NLI will present the award to Kane at its annual dinner on April 4 at the Radisson Conference Center in Rockford, with social hour at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7:15 p.m. The guest speaker will be Alan Branhagen, executive director of the NLI, who will talk about “What’s Up with Trees?”

The cost of the dinner is $65 and $60 for NLI members. Tables of eight are also available. Reservations should be made by March 29, at www.NaturalLand.org or 815-964-6666.

About the George and Barbara Bell Award

George Bell founded the NLI in 1958, as part of a commitment “to protect Illinois’ natural heritage so rare and endangered plant and animal species would be here for future generations,” according to the NLI.

The award is named in honor of Bell and his wife, Barbara.

Visit www.NaturalLand.org for more information.

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