STEARNS, Ky. — The Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area has grown by some 450 acres, thanks to a partnership between the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy.
On Wednesday, The Nature Conservancy announced that it was conveying the nearly 500-acre tract of land to the National Park Service.
The land was the largest inholding on the Kentucky side of the 125,000-acre recreation area. Inholdings are pockets of privately-owned land within the boundaries of a national park that, for various reasons, were never purchased by the federal government.
This particular tract of land, which is located in McCreary County and protects the Big South Fork River on the northern side of the Big South Fork NRRA, has been on the NPS wish-list for years, but the federal agency did not have the money to purchase the land.
So, as it often does in its partnerships with state and federal agencies, The Nature Conservancy purchased the land and held it until the NPS came up with the funds through the Land & Water Conservation Fund to buy it. The NPS paid The Nature Conservancy $370,000 for the land.
The deal represented the first transaction between The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service at any of the agency’s parks across the United States.
“This inholding was a large hole in the park’s land, and NPS ownership will make management more efficient and effective and provide better opportunities for hiking, paddling, camping, hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors,” said Dian Osbourne, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky chapter.
While the Big South Fork transaction was the first partnership between the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, the massive conservation organization has worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to grow the Daniel Boone National Forest next-door to the Big South Fork.
“We are delighted that this tract of land will be permanently protected,” said Big South Fork NRRA Supt. Niki S. Nicholas. “The Nature Conservancy is an incredibly effective, efficient organization to help achieve the conservation of public lands and protected species.”
The Nature Conservancy credited passage of the federal Great American Outdoors Act of 2020 in helping make the deal a reality. The landmark legislation provided $900 million in dedicated funding to the Land & Water Conservation Fund.
“As we celebrate this addition to the Big South Fork, we also thank the many champions in Congress, including Sen. (Mitch) McConnell, who helped pass the Great American Outdoors Act with significant bipartisan support,” said Heather Majors, director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy in Kentucky. “The passage of this legislation in 2020 was a huge win for people and nature.”