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What goes into creating public lands?

AT NEARLY 55,000 ACRES, the recently acquired Cumberland Forest Wildlife Management Area is the largest conservation easement in Kentucky history, benefiting all who love the outdoors. Offering public access, the easement lies within several tracts in Knox, Bell and Leslie counties. The area will follow state regulations for hunting, and many great organizations and volunteers are working diligently to add new outdoor opportunities.

Access to the land was previously controlled by The Nature Conservancy, says Ben Robinson, director of wildlife at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The state agency and the KDFWR had an access agreement with the conservancy. Now, the easement purchase will protect those benefits for the future.

“The great thing about the easement purchase is that it gives the public access in perpetuity,” Robinson says. “This means that no matter who owns the property, we maintain public access. It also grants us some management rights as well.”

The easement will offer opportunities including hunting access in the heart of Kentucky’s 16-county elk zone, as well as deer, turkey and small game hunting, wildlife and bird watching, hiking and photography.

In my last column, I wrote about the impact of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act in purchasing the Cumberland easement. Besides his agency and The Nature Conservancy, Robinson points out a few partner organizations also were responsible for making this acquisition possible: the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Kentucky General Assembly, which he says “came through in a big way with some key matching funds to make this purchase possible.” 

Learning more about what makes these outdoor opportunities possible helps us understand the work and dedication that goes into our Kentucky public lands and the access needed to enjoy them. The Cumberland easement will benefit the land and the public in a positive way. While easement has a legal meaning related to land usage rights, I found that there is also a literary meaning: “the state or feeling of comfort or peace.” I feel the Cumberland easement will offer both. This easement, and others like it, not only allow us access to nature but also protect it for generations to come. 

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