Elk NetworkA Celebration as Big as Kentucky Elk Country

General | April 26, 2024

It was only fitting. As festivities took place below, a lone elk fed in the hills above in the heart of Kentucky’s elk range (see photo below).

The sun shone down on a picture-perfect day in eastern Kentucky where 70 to 80 people gathered on reclaimed land within the Cumberland Forest Wildlife Management Area to celebrate a landmark project that conserves, protects and opens public access to nearly 55,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat.

Just four months earlier, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation completed what now stands as the largest voluntary conservation agreement (conservation easement) in Kentucky state history. The real winners are elk, deer, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, scores of other wildlife species, hunters, anglers and all others who enjoy the outdoors.

“Today marks a conservation milestone for eastern elk and other wildlife. The Cumberland Forest-Ataya conservation easement and access agreement secures perpetual access for recreation and wildlife management in Kentucky,” said Jenn Doherty, RMEF director of lands and access. “RMEF thanks our partners at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for making this possible.”

Doherty presented Elk Country Partnership Awards to TNC, KDFWR, NFWF staffers and the Kentucky General Assembly, who all made success possible. For their part, Kentucky lawmakers supplied critical financial support, while championing invaluable bipartisan legislation that ensured a timely completion of the project (see photo below).

KDFWR manages the new wildlife management area for wildlife habitat, public recreation, sustainable forestry and clean water. The project connects 274,000 acres of land stretching into neighboring Tennessee.

“The future opportunities for habitat restoration are promising, and RMEF looks forward to continuing to stand up for wildlife and hunters in Kentucky,” added Doherty.

(Left to right: TNC Kentucky State Director David Phemister, NFWF Rocky Mountain Regional Office Director Chris West, Sen. Robin Webb, Rep. Adam Bowling & KDFWR Commissioner Rich Storm – not pictured Sen. Brandon Smith)

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)