During his tenure as the Conservancy’s state director in Kentucky from 1988 to 2007, Jim Aldrich made great strides in building a program that protects priority natural areas in Kentucky, particularly in the Rockcastle River, the Kentucky River Palisades and the Green River. Prior to this role, Jim coordinated the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Program. While there, he also served as an ex-officio trustee with the Conservancy’s Indiana chapter, co-chaired the Biological Survey Committee for the Indiana Academy of Science and authored several scientific papers. Jim graduated from Western Michigan University in 1978 with a double major in Biology and Environmental Geography. While there, he received a Waldo-Sangren scholarship to study ethno-botany in the Aleutians and participated in the National Science Foundation’s Undergraduate Research Program at Kansas State University and Konza Prairie.
Jim and his wife purchased a 175-acre farm on the Green River in Taylor County nearly ten years ago. During that time, they planted over 14,000 native trees and shrubs along the Green River riparian zone which adjoins the farm. They also planted over 60 acres of native warm season grasses. According to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, their farm is the only known site in the state for two nesting pairs of barn owls. The owls use nesting boxes that were placed in the barns not long after it was purchased.
Nature.org: Have you always had an interest in conservation?
Jim Aldrich: From my earliest childhood years I spent a lot of time outdoors. I grew up picking wild berries and mushrooms, and spent a lot of time fishing. I still enjoy the “fruits” of these pursuits.
Nature.org: How did your career path lead to working with The Nature Conservancy?
Jim Aldrich: I started out as the botanist/ecologist and subsequently, director, for the Indiana Natural Heritage Program for nearly a decade before coming to work for the Conservancy. In that capacity I also became an ex-officio trustee of the Conservancy’s Indiana chapter.
Nature.org: What led you to the decision to focus on restoring Kentucky’s streams and wetlands?
Jim Aldrich: I started my career as a field botanist/ecologist. I wanted to get back to my roots and this opportunity allowed me to do that.
Nature.org: What projects have your focus these days?
Jim Aldrich: A stream and wetland restoration project at the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County. The project involves the restoration of over 4 acres of wetlands and more than 4,000 linear feet of streams.
Nature.org: What do you hope to tackle in the long-term?
Jim Aldrich: The establishment of a stream and wetland mitigation bank for Kentucky that results in a lot of additional land protection and aquatic habitat restoration.