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Buck Creek

Buck Creek is one of Kentucky's outstanding natural resources.

When the 270-acre Pumphrey Tract went up for auction to be developed into smaller lots, the Conservancy jumped in and acquired the parcel to conserve wildlife and a nearby cave system while fostering a sustainable, agriculture-based economy in the Buck Creek watershed. Formerly a dairy farm and later, row crops, the Pumphrey Tract required extensive restoration.

Almost immediately, the Conservancy secured a conservation easement on 150 acres of the tract through USDA’s Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) to ensure that once restored, the property would remain protected forever. Landowners who enroll acres in the WRP become eligible for technical and financial assistance with managing wetlands, wildlife habitat, soil, water and other natural resources.

With safeguards in place, the Conservancy is transferring a portion of the Pumphrey Tract to Pulaski County as a nature preserve for public enjoyment thanks to assistance from Kentucky’s Heritage Land Conservation Fund. While no longer the primary owner, the Conservancy remains involved in restoring the main stem of Buck Creek back to its original condition, transforming a one-mile stretch into approximately three miles with re-established meanders and a significant increase in the number of riffle sections. The increased aquatic habitat, surrounded by a buffer of newly restored native bottomland forest, will soon be healthy and intact enough to welcome rare species of fish and mussels back into the system.

Size: Part of an ecosystem that encompasses 188,472 acres in Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties.

Location: Headwaters begin near Halls Gap in Lincoln County, with the majority of the watershed located in Pulaski County

What’s At Stake: More than 30 species of freshwater mussels (nine of which are endangered or of state concern), 77 species of fish and one endangered bat species.

Some of the rarer species in the area include Cumberland combshell, oyster mussel, little-wing pearly mussel, Cumberland bean pearly mussel and Gray bat. Southern Maiden-hair Fern and northern white cedar can be found on some of the limestone bluffs and cliffs along Buck Creek. Yellow-wood, a small deciduous tree in the bean family is scattered infrequently along the lower section of Buck Creek, may be considered globally rare.

Threats: Incompatible forestry, river and stream channelization, mining, watershed impoundments, dam construction, road building, a rock quarry, incompatible livestock and crop production, invasive species, recreational vehicles and unimproved creek crossings

Milestones: Acquired the 270-acre Pumphrey Tract and placed a WRP easement on 150 acres in 2005. Sold 35 acres of the Pumphrey Tract to Pulaski County and exchanged 40 acres with a local landowner for an easement on 86 acres in 2008. Planted approximately 30,000 native trees and shrubs in 2010.

Action: Thanks to grants from several generous partners, the Conservancy is implementing the Buck Creek Stream and Wetland Restoration Project to employ best management practices that reduce runoff reaching the watershed from local farms. To keep things on track, staff regularly conducts sampling throughout the watershed to measure progress and identify priorities.

Partners: Cumberland Environmental Group, LLC, Cumberland-Green Lakes RC&D, Eastern Kentucky University, Farm Service Agency, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Division of Conservation, Kentucky Division of Forestry, Kentucky Division of Water, Kentucky Mitigation Review Team, Kentucky State Nature Preserves, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board, Lake Cumberland Health Department, Lincoln County Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, PRIDE Inc, Pulaski County Fiscal Court, Pulaski County Soil and Water Conservation District, Rockcastle County Conservation District, Somerset Community College, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, University of Louisville, Upper Cumberland Water Watch, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

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