The Salt River/Rolling Fork project area begins in Fort Knox and continues through portions of Bullitt, Nelson, Hardin, and Meade Counties to the upper reaches of LaRue, Marion, Casey, and Boyle Counties. The majority of the land held within this site is privately owned, however several large blocks are currently being managed for their natural resources. The Conservancy owns a 140 acre tract called Pine Creek Barrens Nature Preserve; also found within the site are Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, The Abbey of Gethsemani, Vernon Douglas State Nature Preserve, Thompson Creek Glades and Hardin County Cedar Glade. Approximately 892,000 acres fall within the project area's boundaries.
Conservation Targets identified through The Nature Conservancy's Efroymson Planning Process include Mixed Deciduous Forest, Barrens and Grasslands (includes glades), Gray and Indiana Bats, Karst Systems, Glade Cress, Wetlands and Bottomland Forest, and Aquatic Assemblages (with an emphasis on Wilson Creek, Otter Creek, and Salt Lick Creek).
The highest ranked threat to these Conservation Targets (also identified through the Efroymson Planning Process) is Primary Home Development. Exclusion of Fire, Development of Roads and Utilities, Invasive Species, Incompatible Forestry Practices, and Conversion to Agriculture or Silviculture are medium threats to this system. Though these seem like insurmountable threats to the system, small changes can make tremendous impacts. We consider this to be a highly restorable area.
Our goal with this project area is to restore each of the components of this conservation area to a point where the true ecosystem can function as a healthy "whole." Nature Conservancy staff and partners have identified several "core" areas which contain diverse arrays of species and habitat remnants that once would have been common to the conservation area. By working in these areas and the ones immediately surrounding them, we can increase the public's awareness about these rare habitats as we continue to expand the scope of the areas that we manage.
Participation in local conservation groups and related agencies' activities are critical to the success of this project. Strong contacts with partner agencies and local interest groups strengthen the program by adding a diverse array of backgrounds, viewpoints, goals, and expertise. We will continue to reach out to the public in many ways, such as providing opportunities to learn about conservation at farm field days and providing volunteer opportunities. Our partner organizations include Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, The Salt River Basin Team, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky Prescribed Fire Task Force, Kentucky Exotic Pest Plant Council, Kentucky Division of Forestry, and Natural Resource Conservation Service. We will continue to strengthen ties with other groups daily.
There are many ways in which we plan to achieve this goal. In recent years, the federal government has made hundreds of millions of dollars available to private landowners in order to better their land use practices. Conservancy staff and partners will assist these landowners in securing and utilizing these dollars to achieve conservation success.
A grant has been awarded to the Conservancy and partners through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/ Natural Resource Conservation Service. This grant was designed to assist private landowners in restoration of native grasslands and will pay for the purchase of additional fire equipment to be used within the project area boundaries. In addition to this grant, fire training courses will be offered in conjunction with an internship program with many local universities. This will greatly expand the scope of our fire management program, and as a result increase the number of acres restored each year.
A recently signed agreement with Roundstone Native Seed Cooperative has greatly increased our ability to restore Kentucky's grasslands to the native warm season grasses once common to much of the state. The seed cooperative has spent several years gathering and producing seed from areas nearby the ones we wish to restore. In return for buying seed from the coop, the Conservancy receives additional seed- seed that will be used in the restoration of even more areas. The above mentioned grant will also pay to offset the costs of native grass seed to private landowners, making restoration much more economically feasible.
Several plant species considered very rare in Kentucky also occur within the Project Area. Among many others, these include: