Bernheim Forest wants to pay land owners to protect their land

By Amy Joseph Landon

Source: WLKY
By Julie Dolan
May 7, 2021

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is getting a multi-million dollar grant for land preservation. The $6.8 million grant comes from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

Bernheim’s Executive Director, Mark Wourms, says the money will be used to help area property owners secure easements on their land, which protects it for generations to come. “It’s quite a large area that this grant will cover,” he says, “reaching toward Fort Knox, up toward the Salt River and down the Rolling Fork.”

Wourms says these easements will protect the land from any underground digging, which is crucial for their mission to preserve wildlife, clean air, water and soil. “It’s important in part because it’s a rapidly growing area and so conservation needs to happen now or it’s not going to happen period,” Wourms tells WLKY, “and we all know healthy land means healthy communities and more outdoor recreation, clean air, clean water and wildlife to enjoy.”

Securing an easement through the Natural Resources Conservation Service can be an intensive and costly effort. This grant will allow Bernheim to take on the fees and legwork for landowners. “Normally it would cost them to put that easement on, but in this case, we are paying them to put that on. It’s really a win-win, and we are going to be reaching out to landowners over the next few months as the details are worked out.”

Wourms says the grant is completive, and Regional Conservation Partnership Program only awarded 85 grants across the country. Bernheim is the only entity in Kentucky to receive one.

“We’re proud that this RCPP grant will be able to reach out to landowners, and that’s the neat part about this grant is that we don’t get much of the money. The majority of this money goes right into the pockets of landowners and farmers,” he said.

The grant, he says, is not necessarily a result of a recent controversial proposal by LG&E to run a natural gas pipeline through the area, but he says it will help Bernheim fight similar future proposals. “Breaking a conservation easement is a hard thing to do, and we want to keep it that way,” he says.

Wourms adds, “90% of land in Kentucky is privately owned, so if you can’t work with owners to protect their own land, we’re not going to have much left.”

If you would like to learn more about securing an easement on your land, contact Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest here:


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