Additional 136 acres of forest protected
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest announced today that 136 additional acres of conservation land are now part of the more than 14,000-acre privately managed forest. Partnerships with Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund (KHLCF), the Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, and private landowners were critical to the acquisition.
The area known as Cave Hollow is a critical piece of habitat within the Greater Bernheim landscape, containing significant cave habitat and the headwaters of two streams, Long Lick and Pine Creek.
“As leaders in ecological stewardship, we are thrilled to be able to protect the land that feeds our region’s waterways,” said Dr. Mark Wourms, Bernheim’s Executive Director. “It is paramount to not only the people who inhabit the region but also the wildlife.”
That wildlife includes 11 species of bats that have been found to use the newly acquired property. Bernheim Forest Manager Andrew Berry touted the non-intrusive acoustic monitoring research conducted, which measured ultrasonic bat calls beyond what the human ear can detect to determine bat populations within Cave Hollow.
“These remarkable flying mammals are critical to the ecosystem,” said Berry. “Bats feed on a wide range of insects, some of which are pests to agricultural crops and forests. A healthy population will consume tons of insects every night during the summer. These bats then deposit nutrients throughout the forest and caves which many other cave dwelling creatures depend upon.”
Because bat populations throughout North America are at risk from white nose syndrome and other hazards, the research findings allowed Bernheim to partner with the USFWS to leverage the Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund (IBCF) for the land acquisition.
“This is a great example of how funding from the IBCF is used to protect important bat habitat and forests in Kentucky,” said Lee Andrews, State Field Office Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Frankfort. “Part of the funding for this acquisition came from mitigation funds provided by residential, highway, and commercial developers in the Louisville area that had to remove forestland for their particular projects. It is good that these dollars have gone back to the area in a way that promotes the local environment, public recreation, and quality of life.”
Bernheim is the largest privately held forest block dedicated to conservation in Kentucky.
“It can be described as part of Louisville’s and Central Kentucky’s last great wilderness,” said Berry.
The acquisition was the first of its kind to leverage state legislation allowing Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Funds to be used in conjunction with external conservation organizations’ funds to purchase land.
Bernheim entered into a Conservation Easement with KHLCF that states any future use of the land must be consistent with agreed upon conservation goals. This agreement helps to protect Cave Hollow by restricting development and fragmentation in the upper watershed. This strengthens the water quality flowing downstream to the cave system and ensures that the landscape will remain in a natural state.
“The KHLCF is very excited that Cave Hollow is the first nonprofit project our program has funded,” said Zeb Weese, KHLCF Program Coordinator. “Bernheim has a remarkable track record of managing natural lands and our organizations share the same commitment to protecting Kentucky’s biodiversity.
“Because it is privately held, Bernheim has greater latitude to implement innovative practices in land conservation like this,” said Wourms. “We’re proud to test a model that can stretch limited state land conservation funds even further.”
Bernheim’s mission is to connect people with nature. Whiskey maker, Isaac W. Bernheim established the now 14,537 acre arboretum and research forest in 1929 as a gift to the people of Kentucky. Bernheim’s gate is open every day 7 a.m. until approximately sunset, except December 25 and January 1. Admission to the park is always free for members and free for all every weekday. Weekends and holidays have a $5 environmental impact fee per vehicle for the public. Schools and tour groups are welcome; please call in advance for fees and scheduling. The Visitor Center and Gift Shop are open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. every day, including weekends. Isaac’s Café, located in the Visitor Center, is open 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. with refreshments. Bernheim is located in Clermont, KY, about 20 minutes from the Louisville airport. From I-65, take exit 112 and follow the signs. The entrance is approximately one mile from the interstate. Bernheim is a non-profit organization that relies on memberships, grants and donations for support.