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FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 22, 2022) — The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has opened 513 additional acres of public access in Pulaski County following an environmental remediation project that addressed safety concerns on affected acreage of the Rockcastle River Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Since the WMA opened in 2017, two portions of the property, 119 acres along Acorn-Ano Road and 394 acres along Buren Turner Road, had been off-limits to public use because of safety concerns associated with orphaned gas wells.
The project, funded by Gov. Andy Beshear’s Better Kentucky Plan, which includes $25 million in grant funds through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to plug abandoned or “orphan” oil and gas wells across the Commonwealth, plugged 18 wells on the two tracts, allowing hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts access to the entire 2,924-acre WMA.
Engineering and Wildlife Division staff from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife partnered with personnel from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Oil and Gas to plug the 18 gas wells.
“We appreciate the partnership of the EEC’s Division of Oil and Gas to assess site needs, secure federal funding, oversee contractors to perform the needed remediation work, and work with our staff to ensure the affected vicinities were rendered safe to access by the public,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rich Storm said.
“State-owned wildlife management areas such as Rockcastle River WMA not only protect land and provide vital habitat for Kentucky’s natural heritage in perpetuity, they support jobs and infuse cash into local businesses from hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers who recreate there. Each acre of public hunting land returns more than $182 per year on average in economic benefits to Kentucky’s communities.”
Rockcastle River WMA is one of 61 WMAs statewide owned or co-owned by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. The previous owner managed the property for fishing and hunting.
Visitors to the WMA will find it primarily forested with abundant wildlife. About 30 percent is open land and ideal for small game hunting and bird watching. Several ponds ranging from half an acre to almost 6 acres are scattered across the property and offer opportunity for anglers.
Hunters and anglers are encouraged to consult the hunting and fishing regulations summaries, available on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website (fw.ky.gov) and wherever licenses and permits are sold, for regulations in place on the WMA.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has updated its signage on the ground, as well as the WMA map available online at fw.ky.gov in preparation for the opening of the additional acreage.
“Completion of this orphaned gas well-plugging project on Rockcastle River WMA is a big win for hunters and other outdoor recreationists,” said Ben Robinson, Wildlife Division director for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “More than 500 acres of the area, which previously had to be excluded from public use because of safety concerns, can now be opened. It is also eliminates the potential for public confusion about portions that can’t be used for recreation.”
When the grant was announced in August, the Division of Oil and Gas estimated that up to 700 of approximately 14,000 orphaned oil and gas wells in Kentucky could be capped through the initial grant from the BIL.
Interested contractors are encouraged to bid through the Finance Cabinet on “packages” of orphan wells identified by the Division of Oil and Gas as eligible for this program. Information on the program and how to apply can be found on the Division of Oil and Gas website.
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