Forty years after then Gov. Julian Carroll signed the bill that formed the Kentucky State Nature Preserves system, more than 100 people gathered July 21 to celebrate at the historic Berry Hill Mansion in Frankfort.
State dignitaries, past commissioners, employees and supporters enjoyed a night of memories, historic photos and an up-to-date look at the work the Preserves do today. A reception with a selection of local foods and a celebratory cake rounded out the festivities.
“The 40th anniversary event was a tremendous show of support for the commission and the work it engages in with many partners to protect the best remaining wild areas of Kentucky,” said Donald Dott, executive director of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission.
The 1976 Kentucky legislature created the commission to protect the best remaining natural areas in the state, not only to preserve the state’s natural heritage, but also in recognition of the dependence of its well-being on healthy ecosystems.
A state nature preserve is a legally dedicated area that has been recognized for its natural significance and protected by law for scientific and educational purposes. There are nearly 60 preserve and natural areas in Kentucky, with about half open to the public for recreational use. About half the areas are used solely for research purposes.
The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission owns and/or manages a system of dedicated state nature preserves, state natural areas and conservations easements. These areas encompass 27,121 total acres of ecological communities and natural habitat for rare species across the state.
The plant and animal life in Kentucky, from the bottomland swamps in the west to the rich Appalachian forests in the east, is extraordinary as well as beautiful.
Glades, prairies, forests, wetlands, rivers and caves form a biologically diverse web of life that is unique to the Commonwealth. The state’s ecosystems are teeming with native species from black throated green warblers to lizard skin liverworts. The aquatic systems of the state are home to rainbow darters, ghost crayfish, salamander mussels and an impressive array of other species.