In 2012 the state acquired nearly 2,500 acres of private land formerly owned by the Alcoa Corporation to create the Big Rivers WMA. This was possible through a remarkable partnership that included The Conservation Fund and other nonprofit organizations, state government agencies, and corporations. Now jointly owned and managed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky Division of Forestry, Big Rivers has been permanently protected from future development, and is open to the public for hunting, fishing and a wide range of other outdoor recreation activities.


The Conservation Fund helped put together the funding partnership that enabled the two state agencies to purchase the Big Rivers property.  An investment fund managed by The Forestland Group purchased the entire property for $6.6 million in 2009. In January 2012, the state purchased the property with funding that included $3.25 million in federal Forest Legacy Program money secured with help from Kentucky’s congressional delegation. The Nature Conservancy assisted in obtaining some of the necessary non-federal matching funds from Duke Energy and the Crounse Corporation, which provided $1.75 million and $50,000 respectively. The nonprofit Indiana Bat Conservation Fund supplied $580,000 because Big Rivers provides valuable habitat for this federally-endangered species.


The property provides public recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, wildlife watching and other activities as a wildlife management area. The property also will be managed to provide watershed and water quality protection, and to protect endangered, threatened and rare species including the Indiana bat. The area’s cultural and geological treasures also are protected, and the property is being managed as a sustainable forest. Most importantly, Big Rivers will be permanently protected from development and agricultural conversion.

“This project demonstrates a relatively new but growing model for conservation where forest management organizations—like The Forestland Group—are helping to conserve land for public outdoor recreation. The success of this partnership has facilitated the protection of a property that is a true natural gem. The new Wildlife Management Area is a win-win for Kentucky because it will support and create outdoor recreation-related jobs and provide new hunting and fishing opportunities.”

—Ray Herndon, Director, Lower Mississippi Region, The Conservation Fund