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FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 28, 2023) — The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will open two new wildlife management areas (WMAs) totaling 1,400 acres in western Kentucky, just in time for this year's spring turkey season.
Both properties will be open under statewide seasons and regulations for spring and fall hunting.
The properties include:
“The acquisition of these properties was funded through the Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Program," said Mike Hardin, assistant director of the Fisheries Division of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “These properties will undergo stream and wetland restoration and enhancement as mitigation for impacts from development elsewhere in the Green River and Cumberland River drainages."
The south end of Gabbard Branch WMA includes 79 acres of natural wetland that will be rehabilitated. Further plans call for the creation of roughly 20 acres of additional wetlands.
Several former stream channels of Gabbard Branch and Little Reedy Creek in the lowlands of the area are now wetlands that hold water part or all year long.
“The Green River is nearby, and it has several species of mussels that are listed as federally endangered," Hardin said. “This will help those species because it will improve water in Green River by reducing sedimentation."
Mussel population surveys in Green River show the rough pigtoe mussel, the fanshell mussel, the sheepnose mussel and spectaclecase mussel live throughout this part of the river. All four mussels are “Endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
“There is a lot of good habitat on Gabbard Branch WMA," Hardin said. “You have bottomland wetland habitat next to upland habitat. There are deer, squirrels and turkeys on the property, which the former owner used for deer hunting."
Gabbard Branch WMA has two parking lots in the northern end of the property, both off KY 2266.
Ferguson Creek WMA lies in one of the most unique geographic regions in Kentucky. The property includes wetlands and bluffs associated with the lower Cumberland River.
“It has 98 acres of existing wetlands that we plan to restore and enhance," Hardin said.
The upland area is woodlands and some of the lowlands are in various stages of regrowth from past forest management practices.
“It was a former pine plantation," Hardin said. “The property was bought from a company that managed timber lands."
Ferguson Creek WMA provides habitat for the federally-listed endangered gray bat, as well as the rare lesser siren, a salamander species that can reach two feet in length.
The area is within a few miles of the Bissell Bluff and Newman's Bluff State Natural Areas. Wood ducks and teal come to the region in September and other waterfowl species visit this area each winter.
Work is underway to create parking areas at Ferguson Creek WMA.
Ferguson Creek and Gabbard Branch WMAs will be open for hunting for Kentucky's youth-only turkey season, April 1-2, 2023. They will also be open for the regular spring turkey season, which runs from April 15-May 7, 2023.
Kentucky's statewide spring harvest limit is two legal turkeys. A legal turkey is defined as a wild turkey that is male or has a visible beard. Hunters should note a recent regulation change specifying that a hunter may only take one legal turkey per WMA in spring.
For all the regulations for spring turkey season, please see the Spring Hunting Guide online at fw.ky.gov, or pick up a printed copy wherever hunting licenses are sold. The online version includes an update pertaining to legal use of salt and minerals for wildlife.
The Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Program operates through a dedicated state fund, into which mitigation payments are made by developers whose activities impact wetlands or streams within the same watershed area. Under supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife uses monies from the restricted mitigation fund to restore wetlands and streams in order to help preserve the overall ecological functions within the vicinity. These restoration projects produce cleaner water, reduce soil erosion and improve fish and wildlife habitat on pre-approved project sites on both public and private lands. In some cases - such as these two new WMAs - lands purchased with the mitigation funds are later opened for public use.
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