Living Lands and Waters
Living Lands & Waters' Mission
To aid in the protection, preservation and restoration of the natural environment of the nation's major rivers and their watersheds.
To expand awareness of environmental issues and responsibility encompassing the river.
To create a desire and an opportunity for stewardship and responsibility for a cleaner river environment
Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters'
Taking care to let others know how much he appreciates their good work, volunteer efforts, in-kind contributions and monetary donations is just a natural part of Chad Pregracke engaging personality. Chad raises the bar on leadership, motivating others through his infectious positive outlook and incomparable sense of humor. Founder & President of Living Lands & Waters, Chad Pregracke, is living, breathing proof that one person can make a difference.
The Mississippi River was literally Chad's back yard while he was growing up. The son of educators and river enthusiasts, KeeKee and Gary Pregracke, he spent the majority of his time on, in, and around the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Chad's brother, Brent, is a commercial fisherman who on occasion, sometimes makes an appearance as a Big River Educational Workshop expert.
While attending high school and college he worked as a commercial shell diver, a commercial fisherman, and barge hand during the summers. He sometimes lived on the islands of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers during that time. While there, he noticed that the condition of the rivers was getting worse due to the accumulation of trash on the shorelines. Based on his concern, while still in college, he set out in the spring of 1997 to make a difference... one river at a time…one piece of garbage at a time.
In 1998, he founded Living Lands & Waters, the not-for-profit environmental organization based in East Moline, Illinois. Today, there are several employees and a fleet of several barges and workboats. Thousands of volunteers have cooperated to help with the community cleanups, Riverbottom Forest Restoration and Adopt-a-Mississippi River Mile programs. Chad's project has been filmed by many of the major networks and featured in numerous national and international magazines. In December of 2001, Biography magazine selected Chad as one of the "Top Ten Future Classics in America” along with Rory Kennedy, Julia Roberts, Tiger Woods and others.
In June of 2002, Chad accepted the Jefferson Award for Public Service in the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The Jefferson Award is America's version of the Nobel Prize for Public Service. In addition to Chad, the other national winners in 2002 were Rudolph Giuliani, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Lilly Tartikoff. In August 2002, Chad was invited by the Coca-Cola Company to attend the World Summit on Sustainable Environments in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chad met and shared information about his river cleanup projects with people from all over the world. He appeared in the August 2002 edition of Outside magazine. The PBS-TV special Main Stream aired in December 2002. He appeared in the National Enquirer in 2003, and although Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were on the cover, Chad had nothing to do with their breakup a week later.
Chad received an honorary doctorate for his work in education and the environment in May of 2003 from St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa. In October, the Manhattan Institute of Public Policy awarded Chad the 2003 Social Entrepreneurship Award for his efforts in bringing together thousands of volunteers that helped clean up America's rivers. His story appeared in the February 2003 edition of Readers Digest, and the April 03 edition of Smithsonian. Chad and Living Lands & Waters were the topic of one episode of Volunteers: For the Sake of Others, which aired on the Good Life TV Network. WQPT, the local PBS station, produced the first biography, Chad Pregracke: River Rescuer, which aired for the first time in December 2003. In 2004 Chad received the Quad-Cities Area Leaders under 40 award, presented by Black Hawk College Foundation, Moline, IL , Seventh annual “What's Right with the Region!” award presented by FOCUS St. Louis. In 2005 Chad was the recipient of the Achievement in Conservation award presented by the Hannah Caldwell Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, Environmental Stewardship Award, presented by the National Mississippi River Parkway Commission, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chad received the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Award (NOAA), Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, and People Are Today's Heroes (PATH) Award. Chad was named the 2005 Quad Citian of the Year by Best of the Quad Cities 2005 River Cities' Readers Poll.
In addition to the river cleanups and the educational workshops Chad and the LL&W team responded to people in need once again. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast in late August, 2005 Chad got the o.k. from the LL&W board and staff, cancelled the fall schedule, and loaded the barges with people, supplies, and building materials for a trip south on the Mississippi River. The hurricane relief project stretched over nine weeks. The crew of 18 helped clean and repair roughly 70 houses in New Orleans and Mississippi. The need for help was tremendous and there was only so much a small crew could do. The crew had a huge impact on the people they did have contact with. Folks were still calling for help after the crew had departed the area.
Chad enjoys skateboarding, snowboarding, snow skiing, water skiing whenever he can get away from his rigorous work schedule.