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TreesPress Releases
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January 26, 2006

CONTACT: Chris McCloud (217) 558-1540


Inductees to be honored at Hall of Fame Banquet on March 4th

SPRINGFIELD, ILL -- The Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame is recognizing three individuals who have helped make Illinois a better place to live through their commitment to environmental protection, natural resources conservation and outdoor recreation.

Ralph Frese of Niles, Don Swensson of Moline and the late Robert Torstenson of Pecatonica will be inducted during the annual Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday, March 4 at the Mark of the Quad Cities in Moline.

"These three men provide shining examples of how to preserve, protect and nurture the outdoor treasures of Illinois," said Sam Flood, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). "As the members of the Class of 2006 of the Illinois Hall of Fame, they represent the best of the best. At the same time, it is with great sadness that we’ve lost one of outdoor Illinois’ greatest friends."

The ICF Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame designation recognizes those individuals who have made significant contributions or exhibited unparalleled dedication in preserving, promoting, enhancing or supporting natural resources or outdoor recreational opportunities in the state of Illinois.

"Ralph, Don and Bob serve as inspiration in our efforts to make outdoor Illinois a better place for our kids and grandkids," said Jess Hansen, executive director of the Illinois Conservation Foundation. "They are most worthy of selection to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame and we look forward to honoring them at the banquet March 4 in Moline."

The new inductees were selected from among dozens of people nominated by citizens and organizations throughout the state. "Their credentials speak for themselves," Hansen said.

Ralph Frese, Niles - Known as "Mr. Canoe," Ralph Frese is a fourth generation blacksmith, who began building canoes in his blacksmith shop for his scout troop. Frese turned his passion for canoe building and paddling the waterways of Illinois into a successful canoe-building business in Chicago. Frese is well known for his work on behalf of conservation efforts on the Fox River in northeast Illinois and is the founder of the annual Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon. In 1973, he built two 21-foot early Algonquin birch bark canoes and re-enacted the Marquette and Joliet expedition of 1673.

Ralph Frese is a renowned spokesman and lecturer on the role of the canoe in Illinois history and is one of the leading advocates for water trails and waterway protection and enhancement in the nation. Frese is a recipient of numerous conservation and environmental achievement awards including recognition by the American Canoe Association as its first recipient of the group’s Legends of Paddling award.

Don Swensson, Moline -
Don Swensson is the founder of one of the state’s largest, most active and effective independent outdoor recreation organizations, the Quad City Conservation Alliance (QCCA). The QCCA includes representatives of a number of fishing, hunting and conservation clubs in Northwest Illinois and operates the 60,000-square foot QCCA Expo Center which hosts outdoors shows and other activities in the Quad Cities region. During the past 20 years under Swensson’s leadership, the QCCA has donated more than $1 million to conservation, environmental and outdoors education programs within a 100-mile radius of the Quad Cities. Swensson served for eight years as a member of the Natural Resources Advisory Board, and has served on the state Land and Water Task Force. He is a member of the In-Fisherman Club, a founding member of the QC Muskies, Inc., and is a regional Vice President of Muskies, Inc.

Robert Torstenson, Pecatonica - Nominators universally refer to the late Bob Torstenson as a "generous and enthusiastic supporter of wildlife conservation in Illinois." Bob enhanced wildlife habitat on his own property as well as supported natural heritage and wildlife conservation programs throughout the state and nation. An avid hunter and former Chicago businessman, Torstenson developed his 750-acre farm in Winnebago County into a model of forest, wetland and upland prairie land management. He donated a conservation easement on the property to Ducks Unlimited. Torstenson and his wife Leslie purchased a 120,000-acre ranch in New Mexico, later donating the property to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to preserve it as a model of sound ranching and wildlife management practices. It was the largest gift of land ever provided to a wildlife conservation organization. Bob Torstenson passed away in May 2002.

Proceeds from the banquet support the ICF Youth Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships of $1,000 each to ten high school juniors and seniors. The students from each region of the state are selected based on nominations from schools and organizations that recognize their interest in natural resources protection and outdoor recreation.

Banquet proceeds also assist in funding other Illinois Conservation Foundation programs, including the popular ICF grant program, which awards tens of thousands of dollars each year for projects focusing on natural resource protection, research and education.

For banquet tickets or for more information, contact the Illinois Conservation Foundation at: One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271, phone 217/785-2003, or check the ICF web site at

The Illinois Conservation Foundation, an IRS 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established in 1995, has raised more than $20 million in support the programs of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.


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