Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

High-quality natural areas, containing rare plant and animal species, relatively undisturbed natural communities, quality environmental education sites, or just exceptional natural scenery are becoming increasingly rare throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, a critically important aspect of KNP's mandate is working with public and private landowners to ensure the conservation of ecologically significant land in Kentucky. Land conservation actions by the KNP are always undertaken with the full cooperation and agreement of landowners. For owners of qualifying natural areas, the KNP has options including purchase of land or voluntary enrollment in the Natural Areas Registry program. Anyone interested in discussing land protection possibilities should contact the KNP's land specialist at 502-573-2886 or naturepreserves@ky.gov.

Acquisition

The KNP may acquire lands that represent the best remaining examples of Kentucky’s natural heritage by purchase, gift or bequest. Donations of land to the KNP may qualify as a charitable gift for federal income tax purposes. For example, the Harrison County property known as the Quiet Trails State Nature Preserve was entirely donated to the KNP by the landowners, the Wiglesworth family, while over half of the purchase of Whitley County's Archer-Benge State Nature Preserve was provided from a bequest from the late Dennis Benge. These Kentuckians treasured our natural heritage and left conservation legacies that will live for generations.

The KNP can purchase land from willing sellers for up to the appraised fair market value of the property. Alternatively, owners may prefer a “bargain sale” of the land, receiving less than the appraised fair market value from the KNP and treating the difference as a charitable gift for federal income tax purposes. KNP seeks outside grant funding to purchase land, from programs such as the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, the Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Ownership of natural areas by the KNP allows for active land management. This may include prescribed burning, rare plant and wildlife habitat restoration, natural community restoration, removal of non-native species, and maintaining hiking trails.

Not all natural areas are owned by KNP, of course, and eligible government agencies and nonprofit land trusts may apply to the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund to acquire natural areas of thier own, for management under a KHLCF conservation easement. 

Dedication

The KNP is the only agency that can legally dedicate land as a "state nature preserve", thereby providing it with the strongest legal protection available under Kentucky law. Dedication permanently protects the land from activities that would harm its natural qualities and character, particularly rare species populations or habitats. The dedication process is what makes "State Nature Preserves" different from other natural areas.  Dedication is accomplished through execution of a legal document called Articles of Dedication, which contain a list of permanent land use restrictions. The exact terms of dedication are variable as long as permanent and thorough protection of the property is assured. Once the Articles of Dedication have been executed, the property is formally and legally designated as an addition to the state nature preserves system. In the past, KNP dedicated property owned by other agencies, such as Kentucky State Parks. Currently KNP only dedicates property it owns and manages, although all natural areas dedicated in the past remain dedicated and are still managed accordingly in partnership with the respective owners.

Natural Areas Registry

The Kentucky Natural Areas Registry is a voluntary, non-regulatory program designed to provide recognition for sound ecological stewardship and awareness of the ecological significance of a landowner’s property. Under the terms of the registry agreement, the landowner does not relinquish any rights to the property and simply agrees to protect it to the best of their ability. Further, the landowner agrees to notify the KNP if they are interested in selling the land or if the area is threatened in any way. Landowners who enroll their property in the registry program receive a registry certificate and, if desired, other appropriate public recognition.

To be eligible for registration, a property must contain habitat for plants or animals that are rare or have declining populations in Kentucky or that contain an outstanding example of a Kentucky ecological community, such as an old growth forest, wetland, glade or prairie.

The registration may be canceled by the landowner at any time, although a 30-day notice before terminating is requested.  If the owner fails to protect the area, the director of the commission may remove the area from the registry. Registration of a natural area provides no rights of public access to private property.  As with any private land, visitors must receive permission from the landowner before entering the property.

For more information on the Natural Areas Registry, please contact naturepreserves@ky.gov

Conservation Easements

While the KNP does not generally hold conservation easements on private land, protect farmland, or conserve land outside our project areas, several of our partners do! There are several nonprofit land trusts active in the Commonwealth, including:

  • The Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, working in Southeastern Kentucky;
  • The Bluegrass Land Conservancy, working from Louisville to Lexington;
  • The Woods and Water Land Trust, working in the Frankfort Area;
  • The Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Conservancies working in Northern Kentucky.
If you are a landowner who wants to see their land conserved but are not sure how to do it, the Kentucky Land Trust Coalition is a great place to start to put you in contact with these great organizations.