When Kentucky gets any national media attention it’s usually for the wrong reasons. Stereotypes are reinforced on a pretty regular basis. We probably have a higher reality-shows-per-capita rate than any other state, and the Turtle Man might be the most flattering. Which is why I’m happy whenever the suns shines bright on the great things my old Kentucky home has to offer. In regular ETR contributor Tom Barnes’ latest book Kentucky, Naturally: the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund at Work, he explores the 120+ conservation areas and nature preserves purchased by the Commonwealth’s primary land conservation agency in its first 20 years. Like many states, Kentucky has a series of nature-themed license plates to fund its program and, along with a few other sources, these nature plates have helped to conserve over 86,000 acres statewide to date. Some of these areas are just a few acres of urban greenspace, intended to get kids splashing in a creek and away from their touchscreens for a bit, while others are thousands of acres in a pretty rugged condition that provide important habitat for endangered species, like the Indiana bat or the Short’s goldenrod.
This book is primarily a showcase for Tom’s stunning photography, but it also includes a little information about each site, such as directions to plan your visit and a list of rare species that may live there. If you ever find yourself in the Bluegrass State, you can use this book to point you towards a long hike in one of the largest old growth forests in the Eastern US (Blanton Forest Nature Preserve in Harlan County), or a paddle through a cypress swamp (Boatwright Wildlife Management Area in Ballard County), or maybe do a little fishing in a wild river (Burnett Watershed and Wildlife Conservation Area in Wayne County). These places are pretty far out in the sticks, which is part of the reason they are so ecologically significant, but the book also features places closer to town, like Louisville’s Jefferson Memorial Forest and Lexington’s Raven Run Nature Sanctuary on the Kentucky River palisades.
I have had the good fortune of exploring all of these natural areas over the years, some with Tom as he took the photographs for this book, and I can attest that he does an extraordinary job of capturing the feel of the land, the wild spaces left between the interstates and the subdivisions. My hope is that at least a few of the folks who visit these places through Tom’s pictures take the time to go see them in person and try to capture some of that feeling firsthand. After all, we only care about what we know.
You can buy Kentucky, Naturally: the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund at Work directly from Acclaim Press or find it on Amazon.
For more information on the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, check out the KHLCF website or KHLCF Facebook pages. You can also Google “conservation license plates” to see if your state has a similar program.