The key to the Conservancy’s success in the Rockcastle River watershed has been engaging in partnerships to tackle common goals that would be unachievable for individual organizations. For example, partnerships built over more than a decade at Horse Lick Creek, one of the river’s tributaries, have advanced the Conservancy’s work in other parts of the watershed.
Take Sinking Creek. In 2009, the Conservancy and its partners became the first recipients of a new grant from the Kentucky Aquatic Resources Fund, administered by the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, to acquire 329 acres along Sinking Creek, a tributary containing state-listed fish and bats, and federally designated critical habitat for the Cumberland elktoe, an endangered mussel. With support from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Conservancy protected additional portions of Sinking Creek in 2011.
Collaborating with partners in these ways throughout the watershed has led to significant results at a reasonable cost to individual organizations during tight economic times. The work has also served as a model for other conservation work across the Commonwealth.
Size: 400,000 acres
Location: The Rockcastle River watershed is a tributary to the Upper Cumberland River which covers parts of Jackson, Rockcastle, Laurel and Clay counties.
What’s At Stake: Several federally-listed threatened or endangered species including the following mussels: Cumberland Combshell, Cumberland Bean and Little-wing Pearlymussel, and bat species including Indiana bat, Virginia Big-eared bat and Gray bat
Threats: Coal mining, unsustainable forestry and incompatible agricultural practices, poorly functioning municipal sewer plants, straight pipes and poorly planned urban development
Milestones: In 2011, acquired the 35-acre, .63 creek mile Boggs tract and the 22.5-acre Chandler tract, which protects 1,500 feet of Sinking Creek and 1,200 feet of its tributary, Laurel Branch. Acquired 329 acres along Sinking Creek in 2009. Established the 143-acre Mrs. Baylor O. Hickman Memorial Preserve in 1992 in Pulaski County. Worked cooperatively with the Daniel Boone National Forest for more than a decade to preserve and restore biological diversity in a 40,000-acre bioreserve that includes Horse Lick Creek.
Action: Coordinate partners to tackle threats, mitigate and protect the river ecosystem, and implement best management practices to stop pollution from entering the watershed from county roads and farms. Reclaim abandoned coal mines. Provide environmental education opportunities.
Partners: USDA Forest Service/Daniel Boone National Forest, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Jackson County government, Kentucky Waterways Alliance