Now a partner and Board Member, Tom Smith continues to be amazed by the Conservancy's reach. “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."
Tom Smith wasn’t familiar with The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky before 2009 when it joined forces with his employer, the Ingram Barge Company, to protect portions of the Mississippi River watershed valued by both organizations. The multi-year agreement has catalyzed efforts to work with western Kentucky landowners committed to reducing agricultural runoff and protecting water quality in the long-term.
Not long after participating in the groundbreaking partnership, 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, who works as Vice President of Vessel Engineering at The Ingram Barge Company. “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 – the type of work he notices the Conservancy accomplishing on a global scale.
“Getting to know the Conservancy’s staff in Kentucky has been a great experience,” says Smith. “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.”