LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit aimed at conserving land and water, is acquiring 100,000 acres of forest split between southeast Kentucky and northeast Tennessee.
It will be one of the largest land conservation and ecological restoration projects for the organization in the Central Appalachians, according to a news release.
It will double the amount of Kentucky acreage the organization has protected, either through acquisition or conservancy easements that prevent certain development of the land.
"As a land conservation opportunity alone, the scale of this project is impressive, but this is much more than a land deal," David Phemister, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Kentucky, said in the release. "Fundamentally the project seeks to demonstrate that sustainable forestry can yield both smart conservation and good business, potentially creating a model that (The Nature Conservancy), partners and communities could replicate across the Appalachians."
The group plans to manage the property, known as Ataya, as a working forest and also will seek to protect wildlife habitat, secure clean water and sequester atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change, according to the release. The public will continue to have access to the land for hiking, hunting and other activities.
The Nature Conservancy created an affiliate to acquire the surface property, while the sub-surface minerals will continue to be owned and mined by a third party, according to the release. The conservancy said it plans to work toward restoration and to minimize the impacts of mineral extraction.
The forests and streams on the property impact water quality and supply in portions of Bell, Knox and Leslie counties in Kentucky, and Claiborne and Campbell counties in Tennessee.
The total property is 100,000 acres, with 55,000 acres in Kentucky and 45,000 acres in Tennessee. Before this project, The Nature Conservancy in Kentucky had protected 55,000 acres in the state.
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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Thousands of acres in Kentucky and Tennessee will be protected as wildlife habitat