Elk NetworkCollaboration Highlights Historic Appalachian Conservation Project

General | February 19, 2024

Conservation victories do not come much bigger than what happened in late 2023, especially in the eastern part of the United States. And it took a collaborative effort to conserve and open public access to a landscape-scale swath of Kentucky habitat for elk, deer, black bears, wild turkey, ruffed grouse and other species.

“This historic access project successfully closed in December 2023, creating the largest conservation easement in Kentucky and permanently securing almost 55,000 acres of public access as the new Cumberland Forest Wildlife Management Area,” said Steven Dobey, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation senior conservation program manager-eastern U.S. “This project would not have happened without the incredible partnerships from The Nature Conservancy, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), Kentucky General Assembly and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The assembly’s role was instrumental as its 2022 budgetary allocation of $3,875,000 secured the nonfederal match needed to utilize KDFWR’s Pittman-Robertson dollars.”

KDFWR will manage the acreage for wildlife habitat, public recreation, sustainable forestry and clean water. The project connects 274,000 acres of land stretching into neighboring Tennessee.

Dobey recently gathered with other members of the Kentucky Sportsmen’s Caucus at the state capital in Frankford.

“We may never see a public access project of this scale in Kentucky again in our lifetimes, and all partners understand the significance of this,” added Dobey.

(Left to right) KDFWR Commissioner Rich Storm, Senator Robin Webb, TNC Director of External Affairs in Kentucky Heather Jeffs and Dobey

(Photo credit: Ben Childers/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)