Tom Smith learned about The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky in 2009 when it began working with the transportation industry to protect portions of the Mississippi River watershed. At that time the Conservancy was seeking funds for its efforts to work with western Kentucky landowners committed to reducing agricultural runoff and protecting water quality in the long-term.
Smith recognized how much he had in common with the Conservancy. In fact, that’s what inspired him to eventually accept a position on the Conservancy’s Kentucky Board of Trustees.
“My wife and I own property in southern Illinois where we spend time preserving and restoring wildlife habitat,” says Smith. “We appreciate the value of setting aside portions of the landscape to be left alone to operate in the way nature intended.”
In southern Illinois, Smith also belongs to a grassroots, prescribed burn association that convenes landowners interested in employing this conservation tool to eliminate non-native, invasive vegetation and produce a healthier, more natural landscape. According to Smith, each year the association provides prescribed fire training and burns 800-1,000 acres of wet woodlands and grasslands with only a couple of part-time employees, volunteers and some grant money.
What he witnesses on his own property is also the type of work Smith sees the Conservancy accomplishing on a global scale. He is glad to play a small part in that success.
“On a return trip from our cabin in Illinois, we stumbled upon the Grassy Slough Nature Preserve -- another sign of the good work taking place here in Kentucky and around the world," says Smith. "Getting to know the Conservancy’s staff in Kentucky has been a great experience. I am amazed how focused and nimble the organization is. They know what needs to happen and how to get things done. It is a pleasure to work with this group.”