Chad Pregracke of Moline, Illinois–who was a 2008 Field & Stream Heroes of Conservation finalist for his extraordinary efforts to remove millions of pounds of trash from a 435-mile stretch of the Mississippi River–was named the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year on Nov. 19. The winner was selected through a five-week public vote on CNN.com. The network awarded Pregracke $250,000, in addition to the $50,000 given to each of the top ten award finalists.
As generous and good-humored as the F&S editors found him to be while filming this video of his conservation work, Pregracke vowed to donate a chunk of his prize money to each of the other nine finalists’ efforts. “I’m really moved by all their stories and all the things they do around the world,” he said. “I’m going to give 10 grand to each of them, because they’re awesome.”
Pregracke founded Living Lands and Waters in 1998 at the age of 23. Since appearing in the pages of Field & Stream in March 2008, he has expanded his cleanup efforts beyond the Mississippi and brought together more than 70,000 volunteers to remove over 7 million pounds of trash, including 67,000 tires and 950 washing machines, from U.S. waterways. In 2012, his group finished construction on a $1.3 million barge that serves as a headquarters space and educational center. The organization is also halfway towards its goal of planting one million trees along the shorelines of the Midwest’s rivers to produce viable food sources for wildlife, filter run-off from smaller tributaries, and reduce erosion.
Congratulations to F&S Conservation Hero Chad Pregracke for this well-deserved recognition!