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School of Environment and Natural Resources


CNN Hero of the Year, a Cleaner of Rivers, to Speak at Ohio State

Jan. 22, 2015

This article was originally published on the website of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and written by Kurt Knebusch.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year will headline February’s Breakfast Club program by the Ohio State University-based Environmental Professionals Network.

Chad Pregracke, founder and president of Living Lands & Waters, will present “Cleaning Up America’s Rivers” from 7:30-9:45 a.m. on Feb. 24 in Ohio State’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, in Columbus.

The network is a service of Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Pregracke grew up on the Mississippi River near East Moline, Illinois, where he worked as a commercial shell diver, fisherman and barge hand. At age 22, bothered by the growing amount of trash he saw in the river, he started to clean up the river himself.

One year later, in 1998, he founded the not-for-profit Living Lands & Waters. Since its inception, the group has attracted 70,000 volunteers and removed 8 millions pounds of debris from the Mississippi, Missouri and other major rivers.

The group’s recent efforts also include the MillionTrees Project, the Adopt-A-River Mile program and the annual Great Mississippi River Cleanup.

“The garbage got into the water one piece at a time,” Pregracke said in a 2013 CNN story. “And that’s the only way it’s going to come out.”

Registration for the event, which includes a continental breakfast, is free for the first 280 Ohio State students to register and $10 for the first 120 nonstudents to register, including both members and nonmembers of the network. Pre-registration by Feb. 20 is required in order to eat breakfast. Payment by credit card is $15. Details and links to online registration are at

AEP River Operations, which supports Living Lands & Waters and has a representative on the group’s board of directors, is sponsoring the event.

For more information, contact David Hanselmann, a lecturer in SENR and the coordinator of the network, at or 614-247-1908.

Membership in the network is free and open to anyone working in or studying an environmental field. Details are at


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Kurt Knebusch




David Hanselmann