Isaac Wolfe Bernheim understood the enduring value of connecting people with nature. It was vision that led him to purchase over 12,000 acres of eroded and logged-out land in Bullitt and Nelson Counties in Kentucky in 1929. He established the I.W. Bernheim Foundation in 1929 as a means of protecting and managing this living legacy. He understood that land, if properly cared for, had the inherent capacity to recover. His gift of land would become a place where all people could find peace, understanding and common interest in nature, regardless of race, creed or economic status.
In the 83 years since the original purchase, the 14,378 acres of the modern Bernheim has changed. Logged hillsides are approaching “old growth” status. Watersheds within the forest run clean. Bernheim is a respected environmental organization. More than 200,000 people visit each year to derive the benefits of time spent in nature. Bernheim is one of the largest forest blocks in the Eastern United States managed by a nonprofit organization whose mission includes conservation and education. The clean air and water, wildlife habitat and biological diversity that Bernheim provides and protects make this land truly significant and precious.
This expansive perspective is captured in the Vision Statement adopted by the Bernheim Board of Trustees in 2010:
BERNHEIM WILL BE A NATIONALLY TREASURED LEADER IN ECOLOGICAL STEWARDSHIP THAT INSPIRES THE EXPLORATION OF OUR DEEP CONNECTIONS WITH NATURE.
Bernheim’s strategic plan for fulfilling this vision will focus on four Big Ideas: