The Nature Preserves and Natural Areas Branch staff protect and manage the diverse system of nature preserves that are scattered across the Commonwealth from the wetlands of far western Kentucky to Pine Mountain on the state’s southeastern border. Program activities center around several key focus areas: natural community restoration and management; rare species protection and enhancement; research and education; and passive recreational use by the public. Program staff contribute to other aspects of the commission’s work by assisting in the preserve design and land acquisition processes, agency outreach efforts and the Registered Natural Areas Program. Staff members also provide rare species data to the Kentucky Natural Heritage Program Database.
The Nature Preserves Program was formally initiated in 1986 with the hiring of a stewardship coordinator, the commission’s first preserve management staff person. Prior to 1986, preserve management tasks were carried out by the commission’s Natural Heritage Program biologists. Staff positions dedicated solely to preserve management needs have slowly grown since 1986. In 1996, two regional preserve managers were hired to assist with the growing preserve system and the responsibilities of protecting properties located across Kentucky. An additional regional manager was added in 1998. Together with two stewardship assistants, the branch carries out all the functions necessary to maintain the state’s best remaining examples of our natural heritage.