Bernheim Adds 162 Acres of Land

By Mark Wourms

A barn located on the Thurman Tract
A barn at the Thurman Tract

Today, Bernheim officially announced that 162 additional acres of land are under our protection for conservation. The announcement came at a special celebration with the family of the late Raymond Thurman, the long-time Bullitt County farmer and businessman, along with over 100 community members including Bernheim donors, trustees and local community leaders.

Much like our founder, Isaac W. Bernheim, Mr. Thurman understood the importance of conserving land. Instead of developing this land, it will serve as a valuable wildlife corridor, protect water quality and preserve several unique habitats. The land features stream, oak-hickory, cedar and pine habitats, and rare cedar glades. Glades are present when limestone rock is near or at the surface, resulting in specially adapted plants and animals.

Perhaps most importantly, bat habitats will be protected, which allowed us to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and tap into the Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund to finance the purchase.

Big Brown Bat
Big Brown Bat

USFWS’ State Field Office Supervisor, Lee Andrews, said, “Part of the funding for this acquisition came from mitigation funds from development right here in this region,” said Andrews.  “It’s great to see it come back to Bullitt County to protect habitat for bats and other wildlife that are under so much pressure.”

Andrews added that Bernheim is likely habitat for 12 of the 14 bat species in the state.

In conjunction with the acquisition, Bernheim has set aside stewardship funding to maintain the land. Ownership is a small part of conservation and ecological stewardship is a daily endeavor. Stewardship work may include prairie creation for bees and other pollinators and wetland/stream improvements that will enhance water and aquatic habitat quality.

With the additional land, the privately held Bernheim Forest now encompasses 14,673 acres. It is the largest privately held contiguous forest block dedicated to conservation and education in the Eastern United States.

Benita Bush, daughter of Raymond Thurman, helps unveil the new sign marking the Thurman Tract on December 8, 2016
Benita Bush, daughter of Raymond Thurman, along with Bernheim Executive Director, Mark Wourms, and Susan Hamilton and Kurt Mason, Bernheim trustees, unveil the new sign marking the Thurman Tract on December 8, 2016

Today’s event unveiled the sign that designates this area of Bernheim Forest as the Thurman Tract. Benita Bush, the daughter of the property’s former owner and namesake, said, “Our father would be so proud that the land he loved so much is now a part of one of our region’s greatest treasures. Like Mr. Bernheim, he had a great love and appreciation of nature. It keeps the land basically the same as when we grew up and creates a legacy for species to flourish and thrive in an environment that’s safe and protected.” She also spoke of Bernheim’s commitment to seeing Wilson Creek restored, protected, and remain a habitat for years to come.

Bernheim will soon begin restoration of the land. While this work occurs, the land will be used for nature-based education, research and other projects. Special tours will occur in the Spring and Fall. Be sure to come out for a tour to experience what’s new for yourself.

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