On September 11th, The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky closed on acquiring 4,241 acres located in Crittenden County, KY. The transaction represents the largest land acquisition during The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky’s 38-year year history.
Referred to as Phase II of the Big Rivers Corridor Project, the 4,241 parcel was ranked as the #1 priority for the United States Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program aimed at protecting forests having the ability to improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat, generate forest products, and offer opportunities for recreation and other public benefits. In addition to dedicated funding from The Nature Conservancy, the transaction takes place thanks to financial resources from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Indiana Bat Fund, which is administered by the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation’s most important tool for ensuring a vibrant future for outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing.
“As with most projects we pursue around the Commonwealth, this historic land acquisition wouldn’t have happened without partners also wishing to protect the natural landscape in ways that promote clean air, water and soils, and encourage public enjoyment,” said Terry Cook, the Conservancy’s State Director in Kentucky.
At the end of the month, The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky will transfer the property to the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and Division of Forestry (KDF). It complements a 2011 transaction where The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky and partners raised part of a non-federal match that, together with Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund resources, enabled KDFWR and KDF to acquire the adjacent 2,571-acre Sturgis Tract.
KDFWR and KDF will jointly manage both properties as part of the Big Rivers Wildlife Management Area and State Forest, which will allow public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, wildlife viewing and other compatible recreational activities. It will also be managed as a sustainable timber operation in line with guidelines set by the Forest Stewardship Council.
“This has been an excellent and rewarding project involving public and private partnerships that will provide both significant conservation benefits and public access for valuable wildlife-related outdoor recreation,” said Leah W. MacSwords, Director/State Forester at the Kentucky Division of Forestry.
In addition to connecting the big rivers of western Kentucky, the parcels also link other ecologically-significant protected areas such as the Shawnee National Forest, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Land Between−the−Lakes National Forest, Clark’s River National Wildlife Refuge, state−owned lands, and other non−governmental priority conservation areas. Additional benefits of placing more than 6,000 acres into conservation management include:
“Conserving more of the Big Rivers is an amazing gift to our children and grandchildren, and for sportsmen and women – particularly those living in cities and suburbs – who depend upon public lands for a chance to enjoy the great outdoors,” adds Cook. “By protecting this incredible landscape in ways which allow access to its forests, waters and wildlife for outdoor recreation, we ensure that our shared outdoor heritage is passed along to the next generation.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.