Bernheim is pleased to announce that 136 additional acres of conservation land are now part of our more than 14,000-acre privately managed forest. Unique 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 vital 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. 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 conducted non-intrusive acoustic monitoring research, 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. 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 and can be described as part of Louisville’s and Central Kentucky’s last great wilderness.
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. We’re proud to test a model that can stretch limited state land conservation funds even further.
The newly acquired land is off limits to our visitors. Bernheim is conducting biological assessments and putting proper protections in place. Because of how challenging it is to access, long term programming in the Cave Hollow area is undetermined at this time.