The Nature Conservancy recently acquired 235,000 acres in the mountains of Southeast Kentucky, Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
The property is the national nonprofit organization’s largest land conservation projects in the region. According to their press release, the conservancy aims to manage the property with sustainable forestry techniques while protecting wildlife habitats and securing nearby residents’ access to clean water by preserving the health of about 700 miles of streams on the land. The forests will also sequester atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change. The conservancy will allow current recreational use of the land for hiking, hunting and other pursuits to continue, including existing ATV trails.
The Nature Conservancy determined this land to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change than other areas. Scientists at the conservancy found that bedrock and soils in the area support stronger biodiversity and topographic diversity that make the land more likely to sustain native plants, animals and natural processes.
The land also contains more than 100 species that state wildlife action plans identify as being of “great conservation need.” The property provides crucial headwater protection for the federally endangered Kentucky arrow darter.
Although the Nature Conservancy owns the surface land, third parties including coal companies maintain ownership of underground minerals. According to their statement, the conservancy cannot control mining activities by the mineral owners but is expected to receive compensation for any impacts mining operations have on the land. These funds will then go to restoration and conservation activities on the property. — By Sam Kepple