Chad Pregracke looks out the window of his bus as he arrives at the site of his latest restoration project just west of the Interstate 80 bridge near East Moline. An EF-2 tornado tore through the area last March, downing dozens of trees on the state-owned property. The founder of Living Lands & Waters grew up and still has a home down the road from the site, where he has wanted to convert the land back into prairie for years. 

With any big production, it's the behind-the-scenes work that makes things look good.

For Chad Pregracke and his crew at Living Lands & Waters, the few offseason months that lead up to the busy spring and summer river-cleaning seasons are crunch time. In addition to all the logistics associated with a traveling band of waterway cleaners, Pregracke requires three people to help manage his schedule, because he is so in demand.

His hard-working crew must make wise use of the winter months, preparing their fleet of boats and equipment, while making sure potential volunteers are put on notice in the communities that need Living Lands' attention.

Turnover can be high among Pregracke's crews, because he works them hard. But he's working on a lighter touch while also working on several new undertakings that quickly become passion projects for the Quad-Cities' best-known river rat.

The planning that goes into this young and young-at-heart environmental group is the focus of this week's Big Story, beginning on B1.

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