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The Prairie That Tom Moved

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Thursday, May 31, 2018

Tom Foti is a legend in the Arkansas conservation community and many stories of his creative solutions, drive and perseverance, and non-traditional partnerships will live on as part of his legacy to the ANHC.

Almost anyone who has spent any time with Tom recognizes that he is a force to be reckoned with when he sets his mind to something. When two acres of ancient remnant tallgrass prairie were being destroyed by an irrigation reservoir project funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) in 2002, Tom convinced the Corps to alter their plans and try an experimental idea. He was able to persuade the Corps to fund both the removal of the prairie vegetation with a commercial sod cutting machine and the transportation of the vegetation to a protected location nearby. When funding ran out before all of the sod could be unrolled, Tom figured out on the fly how to unroll thousand pound rolls of prairie sod using three people, an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), a metal pipe, and a couple of log chains.



 

 

 

 

 


Despite initial pessimism from staff, partners, and constituents, this project resulted in a successful “sod prairie” that has been repeated elsewhere by the ANHC and other conservationists. The prairie has become legendary in the region, with people visiting from other states just to see “the prairie that Tom moved.”




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