A river bends around a forest.
New Tract Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Grows © Ben Childers


Nearly 500 Acres Added to Big South Fork

Acreage represents new partnership between TNC and National Park Service

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area has grown by nearly 500 acres thanks to a new partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service. The land represented the largest private inholding on the Kentucky side of the park, and its addition to the park will enhance public recreation opportunities as well as streamline land management for the Park Service.

“This is a new partnership and our first transaction with the National Park Service,” says Dian Osbourne, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky chapter. “This inholding was a large hole in the park’s land, and NPS ownership will make management more efficient and effective and provide better opportunities for hiking, paddling, camping, hunting, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors.”

The Park Service sought to acquire this tract for years, but needed funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to purchase the land. While the Park Service worked to secure this public funding, The Nature Conservancy purchased the tract and held it for the eventual transfer. This partnership model has enabled The Nature Conservancy to add public land to the Daniel Boone National Forest; state agencies, including the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky Division of Forestry; and county governments.

“The Nature Conservancy is an incredibly effective, efficient organization to help achieve the conservation of public lands and protected spaces,” says Niki Stephanie Nicholas, superintendent for the Big South Fork. “We really found the Kentucky chapter to be an outstanding partner and look forward to more collaborations.”

The land is at the northwestern end of the park’s legislative boundary and protects the northern reaches of the river. Protecting this area allows the Park Service to provide more river-based recreational opportunities for the public. The Big South Fork is a premier destination for Kentucky paddlers.

“We are delighted that this tract of land will be permanently protected,” says Nicholas. “Adding this land to the park enables us to share more of Kentucky’s beautiful natural resources with the public.”

More wins like this one for conservation and public lands are possible in Kentucky and across the country thanks to the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020. This landmark conservation legislation, long a policy priority for The Nature Conservancy, provides $900 million in dedicated funding to LWCF every year. Demand for access to public land and outdoor recreational opportunities is growing, and LWCF provides crucial investments. 

“As we celebrate this addition to the Big South Fork, we also thank the many champions in Congress, including Senator McConnell, who helped pass the Great American Outdoors Act with significant bipartisan support,” says Heather Majors, director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy in Kentucky. “The passage of this legislation in 2020 was a huge win for people and nature.”

The Nature Conservancy extends its deep thanks to The Wyss Foundation, which provided no-cost financing to the Conservancy for purchase of the land. The Foundation’s support made the transaction possible.

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About the National Park Service

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.  


The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.