Almost 2,000 acres purchased for preservation

CORBIN — Almost 2,000 acres of land have been purchased in southeastern Kentucky to preserve nature.

The Times-Tribune reports several agencies worked together to buy more than 1,800 acres in Whitley County for $700,000. The property is along the Laurel Fork area, and it includes part of the Pine Mountain region.

Donald Dott, director of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, says the purchase protects several unique species of wildlife and plants in the area.

Officials say they hope to have a trail system and a visitor's parking area on the property within a couple of years.

Agencies that worked together to secure the land included the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kentucky Division of Forestry and the estate of William Dennis Benge of Fort Wright.

The project also received funding from American Electric Power, a subsidiary of Kentucky Power, and from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant under the Clean Air Act.

"It was a very long and drawn out situation," Dott said. "It took at least three years to acquire the property, but it finally worked out and we're very happy."

He said it took so long because funding come from several sources, and some partners backed out before the purchase was completed.

He said $200,000 from Benge's estate was very helpful. "He was interested in preserving nature and wildlife," Dott said. "We're very appreciative."

He said some of the wildlife that can be found in the area includes threatened fish species and endangered mussels, as well as several "uncommon" plant species such as rock harlequin and blue mountainmint.

"A complete inventory of the area will be conducted," Dott said.

Kentucky Natural Lands Trust Executive Director Hugh Archer said the area is also home to a unique insect.

"There is a little beetle in one of the caves that is endemic to that cave," Archer said. "It's found nowhere else in the world."