An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
This document represents a comprehensive review and major revision of Kentucky’s State Wildlife Action Plan, updated in January of 2013. Kentucky’s adaptive management of this document included utilization of an extensive public review process, and a comprehensive review of each of the 8 elements within the CWCS (See Section 1.1.3: Guide to the 8-Elements). KDFWR staff reviewed the entire plan, considered public input, and determined the most critical and time-sensitive needs for the major revision. Public input was and continues to be solicited via KDFWR’s website. KDFWR also directly contacted 30+ non-agency, species authorities asking for critical review of the entire SWAP; all comments received were addressed by KDFWR. Revision items spanned the addition of species (9 fish, 3 amphibian, and 13 bird), a taxonomic group (25 crayfish species), and conservation actions; a climate change section; and the revision of a terrestrial habitat guild. Kentucky’s next comprehensive review (and revision, if necessary) will occur within a 10 year interval of the approval of this comprehensive review and revision
We developed 4 volumes to address the 8 elements (Section 1.1.3). Volume I contains a “Guide to the 8-elements” section in order to make finding the mandated elements easier. Volume I also gives background information about Kentucky’s environment and addresses Element 7 (coordination) along with Element 8 (public participation).
Volume II contains background information about the wildlife of Kentucky, and details on the distribution of 301 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) organized into 8 taxonomic classes (fish, lamprey, mussels, crayfish, amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles). All of Element 1 (distribution and abundance) and Element 2 (key habitats), along with portions of Element 3 (conservation issues) are addressed here. Volume II organizes the detailed information about population trends, habitat information, and occurrence into species accounts and species distribution maps.
Volume III examines conservation issues, conservation actions, and monitoring strategies for species and habitat guilds. All of Element 3 (conservation issues) and Element 4 (conservation actions) are addressed as well as significant portions of Element 5 (monitoring). A section on Adaptive Management explains how Kentucky will modify future versions of this Plan. Volume IV expands on Element 2 by identifying specific geographic areas that harbor many species of greatest conservation need (SGCN).
All tables, figures, and maps are located in an appendix. These components of the document were not inserted directly into the text. This approach reduced file size for delivery via the internet, and allowed the CD ROM, and hard copy versions to remain essentially the same.
The information is available either from our web site (http://fw.ky.gov/WAP/Pages/default.aspx), or on a CD-ROM (available from KDFWR, #1 Sportsman’s Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601). For the web site and CD-ROM, the opening page has links to the 4 volumes. Within the text of each volume there are links to tables and figures, which may be clicked on to view.
The overarching purpose of the Kentucky Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) is to provide strategies for sustaining Kentucky’s biodiversity and its contribution to national and global biodiversity. The first step in this process was identifying the 301 species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) to represent this biodiversity (Appendix 1.1 and Section 2.1.1. Species Selection Process). Our approach to addressing the remaining 7 elements builds upon this list. Developing this CWCS provided Kentucky with the opportunity to expand current stewardship practices to species and habitats not traditionally addressed by the KDFWR.
Federal laws and policies have placed the chief jurisdiction for wildlife conservation programs with the states. Historically, hunters and anglers were the primary funding source for fish and wildlife conservation in Kentucky and in the nation. That funding was mainly through two sources: revenue from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses and federal excise tax revenue from the sale of fishing and hunting equipment, apportioned back to states through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This system has been very effective at funding conservation of game species. Under a separate funding mechanism, conservation of federally endangered and threatened species has also been possible. However, a reliable funding mechanism has not been established to adequately address the approximate 80% of species that are not hunted, fished, endangered or threatened.
Beginning with the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, Congress recognized the need for adequate funding for wildlife conservation. This Act, popularly know as the Pittman-Robertson Act, was approved by Congress on September 2, 1937. The purpose was to provide funding to the states for the selection, restoration, rehabilitation and improvement of wildlife habitat, wildlife management research, and the distribution of information produced by the projects. The Act was amended October 23, 1970, to include funding for hunter training programs and the development, operation and maintenance of public target ranges. Revenues collected from an 11 percent Federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition, and archery equipment, and a 10 percent tax on handguns fund the Wildlife Restoration program. Funds for hunter education and target ranges are derived from one-half of the tax on handguns and archery equipment. Kentucky’s apportionment for 2005 was $4,629,054. This comprises 12% of the Department’s total budget.
The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, commonly referred to as the Dingell-Johnson act, passed on August 9, 1950, and was modeled after the Pittman-Robertson Act to create a parallel program and source of funding for management, conservation, and restoration of fishery resources. Revenues collected from the manufacturers of fishing rods, reels, creels, lures, flies and artificial baits fund the Sport Fish Restoration program. An amendment in 1984 (Wallop-Breaux Amendment) added new provisions by extending the excise tax to previously untaxed items of sport fishing equipment. Kentucky’s Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration apportionment for 2005 was $4,312,000, or 11% of the Department’s total budget. In FY 2005, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration accounts provided 23% of the Department’s total budget, while hunting and fishing licenses sales provided 55%.
These funding mechanisms have allowed state wildlife managers to implement successful management programs that recover or improve populations of game and sport fish species. Congress provided funding for threatened and endangered species through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (authorized under section 6 of the Endangered Species Act). These funds are used for a wide array of conservation projects for candidate, proposed and listed species.
Populations of many species that are not hunted, fished, threatened or endangered are declining. Efforts to recover endangered species are extremely expensive. Preventive actions that keep species from being listed under the ESA are the most effective way to assure the future of our fish and wildlife.
As a result of the efforts of the Teaming with Wildlife Coalition and others, Congress developed the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant Program that has provided funding for the past several years. This Program provides funding to every state, territory, and Indian Tribe to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered. It also continues the long history of cooperation between the federal government and the states for managing and conserving wildlife species.
In order to receive future federal funds through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, Congress required each State and territory to develop a CWCS by October 1, 2005. Congress also included 8 essential elements that each state must address in their Plan. The 8 elements and associated sub-elements are listed in the following pages. We used the format provided by the National Advisory Acceptance Team to present this information. This section serves as a “road map” to locating relevant portions of the Plan that address each element and sub-element. Specific sections and/or appendices are listed under each element. The Plan was designed to work most efficiently in an electronic format (CD-ROM or Internet). In these versions hyperlinks are provided that automatically open the appendices or sections referenced. In the paper document we have included page numbers in place of hyperlinks. The physical size of this document makes finding the appropriate page somewhat cumbersome. We recommend readers use either the CD-ROM or Internet version to review this section. If hardcopy review is preferred, then readers should review Section 1.1 (How to Use this Document) in order to become familiar with the layout of this Plan.
Element Number 1. Information on the distribution and abundance of species of wildlife, including low and declining populations as the State fish and wildlife agency deems appropriate, that are indicative of the diversity and health of the State's wildlife.
Information about distribution and abundance is found in Volume II: Species Accounts.
A literature cited section is given for each taxonomic group within the species accounts. Data for mapping was from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Fish and Wildlife Information System and Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission Heritage database.
Information about abundance for each species is given within the Species Accounts. The G-Trend field indicates the population trend throughout that species range and Comment field gives additional information about population abundance. The S-Trend field indicates the population trend in Kentucky and the Comment field has notes about distribution. Distribution maps are provided for each species. Acquisition of additional distribution and abundance information was addressed under research and survey needs in Volume III.
Species accounts describe global and statewide trend with the G-Trend, S-Trend, G-Trend Comment, and S-trend Comment fields.
Our rationale for including and excluding groups of wildlife was explained within the Species Selection Process section. We recognize that future revisions of this CWCS will need to include groups of invertebrates not covered in this draft, especially land snails, and lepidopterans.
The species selection process was described within the introduction to Volume II. This section also describes input from outside agencies and species experts.
Element Number 2. Descriptions of locations and relative condition of key habitats and community types essential to conservation of species identified in the 1st element. The species accounts in Binder 2 describe the location and condition of species specific key habitats. Maps of priority conservation areas for each taxonomic class are included as appendices to Volume IV.
Existing habitat information is included in species accounts in the habitat, key habitat and life history fields. Key habitats are included with the guild accounts.
Plans to acquire new habitat information are described under priority monitoring needs.
Detailed site locations and conditions are described in the Species accounts. Landscape level Priority Conservation Areas are provided in Volume IV. Conservation actions can be derived from the species conservation issues.
Element Number 3. Descriptions of problems which may adversely affect species identified in the 1st element or their habitats, and priority research and survey efforts needed to identify factors which may assist in restoration and improved conservation of these species and habitats.
Conservation issues, conservation actions, and priority research and survey efforts were developed in Volume III. Conservation issues for each species are given within the species accounts.
The sources of information are cited within the text of each Species Account. These are listed in the literature cited section of each taxonomic class section in the Species Accounts.
Specific conservation issues were organized within broader threat types.
In addition to the identified threats and problems in 3-B, actions were developed that have unique applications, and included working with national and international partners.
Priority research and survey needs were specified for each taxonomic class and are sufficiently detailed to develop future projects.
Element Number 4. Descriptions of conservation actions determined to be necessary to conserve the identified species and habitats and priorities for implementing such actions.
Prioritized conservation actions were developed for each habitat guild.
Conservation issues (threats) were identified for each species and are listed in the species accounts. Potential conservation actions were developed to address each conservation issue. Conservation actions were prioritized for both aquatic and terrestrial habitat guilds.
Conservation actions were organized under objectives within the framework of habitat guilds. Performance measures were developed for each major objective.
The list of conservation actions includes programs addressed by other agencies (for example, Conservation Reserve Program) or where partnerships are appropriate.
The prioritized research and survey needs include many projects designed to identify future conservation actions.
Conservation actions are ranked within a habitat guild.
Element Number 5. Descriptions of the proposed plans for monitoring species identified in the 1st element and their habitats, for monitoring the effectiveness of the conservation actions proposed in the 4th element, and for adapting these conservation actions to respond appropriately to new information or changing conditions.
Monitoring of SGCN, their habitats, and this CWCS are covered in Volume III., Section 3.4 Monitoring and Adaptive Management.
The listed monitoring projects are described as either population monitoring or habitat monitoring.
Conservation actions may be monitored by performance measures. Performance measures were organized under objectives within the framework of habitat guilds. A Project Tracking Database will be implemented to evaluate CWCS effectiveness.
Monitoring plans were developed for all taxonomic groups.
Monitoring projects were developed to address a wide range of targets; including species, populations, and habitats.
Monitoring projects were identified as either established or new.
Monitoring projects were developed for watersheds, ecoregions, and microhabitats.
A Project Tracking Database will be implemented to evaluate CWCS conservation actions and to adapt those actions accordingly.
Element Number 6. Descriptions of procedures to review the Strategy/Plan at intervals not to exceed ten years.
Section 3.4 discusses the adaptive management of monitoring projects. Appendix 3.10 lists the plans to update conservation actions annually
We will complete comprehensive reviews at intervals of not more than 10 years. Section 3.4 discusses the adaptive management of the monitoring projects. Appendix 3.10 lists the plans to update the conservation actions annually.
Element Number 7. Descriptions of the plans for coordinating, to the extent feasible, the development, implementation, review, and revision of the Plan-Strategy with Federal, State, and local agencies and Indian tribes that manage significant land and water areas within the State or administer programs that significantly affect the conservation of identified species and habitats.
Partners were involved throughout the planning process.
Significant input from external agencies and species experts was used to develop the CWCS species list, review species occurrence maps, and review of the complete strategy via the internet. There are currently no federally recognized Native American tribes or tribal areas in Kentucky.
Partners will be asked to biennially review conservation actions, and to review CWCS goals and objectives at the end of 5 years.
Element Number 8. Descriptions of the necessary public participation in the development, revision, and implementation of the Plan.
Public participation is described in Volume I.
The complete plan was made available on the web and comments were solicited. The plan was described on Kentucky Afield Radio and Kentucky Afield Television and through press releases.
Public opinion surveys are conducted every decade. Updates to the CWCS plan will be made available on a public web site.
Regulations of the KDFWR are established by a 9-member commission. Vacancies to the Commission are filled by appointment by the Governor from a list of 5 names from each the 9 wildlife districts, recommended and submitted by the sportsmen of each respective district. The Commission is largely bi-partisan, as no more that 5 members can be from the same political party. All regulations proposed by the Commission must be published and available for public review. Also, Kentucky Revised Statute 61.820 requires that all meetings of all public agencies of this state, and any committees or subcommittees thereof, shall be held at specified times and places which are convenient to the public, and all public agencies shall provide for a schedule of regular meetings by ordinance, order, resolution, bylaws, or by whatever other means may be required for the conduct of business of that public agency. The schedule of regular meetings shall be made available to the public. The commission and each of the subcommittees of the Commission meet at least 4 times per year. This provides another avenue of public input to the CWCS.
We are stewards of Kentucky's fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. We manage for the perpetuation of these resources and their use by present and future generations. Through partnerships, we will enhance wildlife diversity and promote sustainable use, including hunting, fishing, boating and other nature-related recreation.
Chapter 150 of Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) establishes the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) as the State agency responsible for the conservation of the State’s wildlife resources. KRS 150.010 (http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/150-00/010.PDF) defines wildlife as "any normally undomesticated animal, alive or dead, including without limitations any wild mammal, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, or other terrestrial or aquatic life”. These statutes have been liberally interpreted to include wildlife conservation and protection, wildlife research, conservation education, and wildlife-associated recreation programs.
The Department's wildlife conservation, conservation education, and recreation programs utilize the collective knowledge and expertise of staff throughout the agency working in collaboration with state, federal, local, university and private partners. We believe that wise decision-making is dependent on an effective interface between biologists, the public, and policy makers. Staff are continuously kept current with the latest theories and techniques in ecological science, monitoring and research, and human dimensions.
The Department recognizes that limited funding has left a broad array of wildlife species and associated habitats with unmet needs. Two task forces also identified these funding needs. In 1995, the Kentucky Biodiversity Task Force issued a report, after extensive studies involving a broad array of state, federal, university and private interest and extensive public involvement, on the status of biodiversity in Kentucky and strategies to sustain this natural heritage. The task force identified the need for expanded programs to conserve and enhance conditions for wildlife, especially for those species not hunted or fished. They also found that while there were programs that addressed threatened and endangered species there were few programs that addressed endangered ecosystems and that by sustaining endangered ecosystems a large number of species would be prevented from becoming threatened or endangered. In 1997 a legislative task force, The Task Force on Funding Wildlife Conservation (Legislative Research Commission 1997), emphasized the ecological, aesthetic, cultural, and recreational values of wildlife to Kentucky and the need for additional funding for wildlife conservation. State and Tribal Wildlife Conservation Grants will make it possible to meet some of these unmet needs.
The Department uses a wide array of tools to conserve, enhance and protect wildlife habitat. These include but are not limited to land acquisition, landowner incentives, landowner recognition, cooperative agreements, partnering with other state and federal agencies, partnering with individual landowners and businesses, and informational and educational programs.
The Department recognizes the success of our programs is contingent on the understanding and support of people. Therefore, we use collaborative planning and learning to provide opportunities for people to work together and to build stewardship capacity for sustainability.
Priority for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants will be given to development, revision, and implementation of wildlife conservation and restoration programs and projects that address the unmet needs of a diverse array of wildlife and associated habitats. The future desired condition expected to result from these programs is sustaining Kentucky’s biological diversity.
Kentucky is a diverse state in many ways. The state’s diversity is exhibited in it physical landscape, its plant and animal species, and its cultural characteristics. It was admitted to the Union in 1792, and its current boundaries were established in 1818 with the acquisition of the Jackson Purchase from the Chickasaws. Its location in the central part of North America has much to do with the variety found within its borders. It is bounded by the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers on the west; the Ohio River on the north; the Big Sandy River, Pine Mountain, and Cumberland Mountain on the east; and the state of Tennessee to the south.
Kentucky’s vegetation as witnessed by the first European settlers was in part a reflection of the practices of Native Americans. The ecological assemblages of vegetation that formed after glaciers retreated evolved in the presence of Native Americans from temperate vegetation that survived to the south. There is much debate among ecologists as to the extent of the influence by Native Americans. Prehistoric cultures are known to have existed in the area about 12,000 years ago. Their way of life evolved during that time from a hunter/gatherer society to one based on agriculture.
According to Delcourt (2002) the vegetation encountered by early Europeans was not a stable “virgin” forest untouched by humans but a “dynamic mosaic” of species, still adapting to postglacial changes and the effects of human disturbance. Native Americans burned parts of the ecosystems in which they lived to promote a diversity of habitats, especially increasing the “edge effect,” which gave them greater security and stability to their lives. Their use of fire was different from European settlers who burned to create greater uniformity in ecosystems. In general, during the pre-settlement period, fires were often interpreted as either purposeful or accidental. Fires were purposefully set for hunting, improving growth and yields, creating fireproof areas, collecting honey, pest management, warfare, and signaling. These purposeful fires differ from natural fires by the seasonality of burning, frequency of burning, and the intensity of the fire. Further study is needed to more fully understand the extent of fire use by Native Americans and the effect on landscape composition, structure and function. At the time of European settlement the vegetation of Kentucky was likely a patch-work of community types in some areas, but the matrix across most of the state was old growth forest.
European settlers coming to Kentucky in the middle 1700s found and exploited a wealth of natural resources, including abundant wildlife populations. By the early 1900s they had decimated populations of wildlife such as the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), American bison (Bos bision), and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Others, such as the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) and eastern elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) were lost to extinction.
The total surface area of Kentucky is 25,863,412 acres. It is divided into 120 different counties (Appendix 1.2). Very little of Kentucky’s land area is in public ownership (approximately 8%). Public land holdings tend to be small and isolated with little connectivity between parcels (Appendix 1.3). Only 9 of the 223 public land parcels mapped by the Kentucky Gap Analysis Project (Wethington et al. 2003) were larger than 25,000 acres. Conversely, 110 of the 223 were smaller than 625 acres. Overall, Federal ownership (1,707,000 acres) is much greater than state ownership (243,541 acres; Appendix 1.4). The U.S. Forest Service is the largest holder of public lands with 811,042 acres or 3.1% of the total surface area. At just over 700,000 acres, the Daniel Boone National Forest is the largest single property although there are substantial private in-holdings within the proclamation boundary.
Approximately 92% of the land area in Kentucky is in private ownership; consequently, any conservation efforts must involve private landowners. Many existing state and Federal programs exist to promote good wildlife stewardship practices on private land. For example, as of July 2005, Kentucky landowners had 344,747 acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and 3,105 acres in the Wetland Reserve Program. Landowners with more than a million acres of land are participating in KDFWR Habitat Improvement Programs.
Historically, Kentucky has been a rural state. This is quickly changing. The Census Bureau reports the 2004 estimated population for Kentucky to be 4,145,922, up nearly 1 million from the 3,230,894 reported in 1970 (http://www.census.gov/). Using the current estimated growth rate of 0.86% per year, another 1 million (5,235,685) will be added by 2030. Based on 2000 census data, the most densely populated areas in Kentucky include Jefferson County, Fayette County, northern Kentucky near Cincinnati (Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties), Boyle County, Davies County, and McCracken County (Appendix 1.5). These same counties tend to have experienced the greatest increase in population density. Warren and Laurel counties are exceptions to this trend. Both these counties have experienced relatively high population increases over the past decade and are located within Priority Conservation Areas identified in Section 4.5.
Kentucky’s estimated population density in July 2005 was 106.9 persons per square mile. Over the next 25 years the density is expected to increase to 131.8 persons per square mile. In 2004 there were an estimated 1,647,464 households in Kentucky with the average household size being 2.5 people. The number of households is estimated to grow to more than 2,000,000 over the next 25 years. The population is currently 48% rural and 52% urban resulting in relatively high level of development per capita. The 1997 Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) showed 1,737,500 acres of developed land in Kentucky (Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1997). That is 0.45 acre per person. The NRI also showed that Kentucky developed 237,100 acres from 1992 to 1997 or approximately 130 acres per day. Habitat loss and fragmentation are among the most serious threats to Kentucky’s wildlife. As levels of habitat drop below critical threshold levels, a wide range of factors can influence both the reduction in species diversity and decline of populations. These are sometimes called cascading fragmentation effects (Lindenmayer and Franklin 2002). They include changes in population and genetic structure, and environmental variability.
Historically, Kentucky’s economy has been land based. Agriculture, forestry, and mineral extraction were the primary industries. These industries are still important, but in recent decades Kentucky’s economy has steadily diversified. The Gross State Product (GSP) in 2003 was $128.98 billion. The largest sector of the economy was manufacturing at $25.5 billion. Farms accounted for $1.5 billion, mineral extraction for $2.3 billion, and forestry slightly less than a half billion dollars (US Department of Commerce, 2005).
Kentucky is the 3rd largest coal producer in the United States behind Wyoming and West Virginia. In 2004 Kentucky’s total coal production was 113.5 million tons of which 61% was by underground mining and 39% was by surface mining (Office of Surface Mining 2004a). In 2004, 86 new permits were issued for 32,815 acres bringing the total permitted acres since 1977 to 1,705,900 acres (Office of Surface Mining 2004b). The total acreage disturbed is 245,577. The National Mining Association (NMA) estimates the annual production value of all mining in Kentucky to be $3.74 billion with a total economic impact of $14.89 billion (not including oil).
Kentucky ranks 4th in total number of farms, tied with Tennessee and following Texas, Missouri and Iowa (US Department of Agriculture, 2005). In 2003, Kentucky had 87,000 farms, averaging 159 acres and totaling of 13,800,000 acres statewide (row crop and pasture) or approximately 54% of the total acreage in the state (US Department of Agriculture, 2005). The National Agricultural Statistics Service lists total farm sales at $3.47 billion (Kentucky Agricultural Statistic Service, 2004).
Kentucky ranks 3rd nationally in hardwood production with more than $4.5 billion of revenue generated annually from the primary and secondary wood industries (Kentucky Division of Forestry 2005). The 2003 Forest Inventory revealed that forest land covers nearly 12 million acres or slightly under half of Kentucky’s land area, showing a decrease of 769,000 acres since the 1988 inventory (U.S. Forest Service, 2005). The vast majority (89%) of this land is in private ownership. Timber removals averaged 311.8 million cubic feet annually (U.S. Forest Service, 2005).
In comparison, the total economic impact of fishing, hunting and wildlife watching in 2001 in Kentucky was $3.2 billion (American Sportfishing Association 2002, and Caudhill 2001).
While the economic rank of these traditional industries has lessened to some degree they are very evident upon the landscape. The historic and current importance of these 3 industries to the people of Kentucky cannot be overstated. We recognize this importance and seek to cooperate with private and commercial stake holders to find ways to preserve these industries, but make them friendlier to fish and wildlife. Many existing programs seek to improve guidelines given in Best Management Practices and other education efforts. There are many opportunities through this strategy to improve habitats by working cooperatively with these industries.
Kentucky’s landscapes are among the most varied in the eastern United States, ranging from striking mountains to gently rolling lowlands to flat plains, interspersed with knobs and caves (Appendix 1.6, Appendix 1.7). Beyond its aesthetic appeal, this variety holds a great wealth of biodiversity. An excellent discussion of the relationship between Kentucky’s physical setting and its natural communities is provided by Jones (2005).
Kentucky’s location in the southeast interior U.S. produces a moderate climate. Bailey (1995) classified Kentucky’s climate as in the Humid Temperate Domain. The state’s weather systems are associated with cyclic movement of the jet stream. Winter and spring weather are dominated by low pressure, including both cold and warm fronts, bringing cloudy, cool, and sometimes wet days. In winter, an occasional high pressure system dips southward from Canada bringing cold, clear and dry conditions to the state and region. The jet stream moves northward in summer and fall and the state is dominated by high-pressure. Clockwise airflow around this high-pressure system results in warm, humid summers as air flows up the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys from the south. The prevalent wind direction is from the south-southwest with typically light surface winds.
Temperatures in Kentucky are normally at the lowest in January and highest in July. Latitude and elevation influence mean annual temperatures in the state. The highest temperatures usually occur in extreme western Kentucky at the lower elevations. The lowest temperatures occur along the upland Ohio and West Virginia borders. Thirty-year averages of mean annual temperatures throughout Kentucky vary with a maximum of 60°F for Gilbertsville in the west and a minimum of 53°F for Ashland in the east. Extremely cold or hot temperatures are rare. The growing season follows a similar pattern to temperature patterns geographically, extending from 155-170 days in eastern and northern regions to more than 200 days in western and southern portions of the state.
Kentucky receives about 46 inches of precipitation annually. Although precipitation is distributed fairly evenly throughout the year, most of the state experiences a spring maximum and fall minimum. The annual distribution of precipitation is typically in phase with the temperature fluctuations during the summer months. The precipitation maximum normally occurs in the same month as the temperature maximum, often in July. Western Kentucky, however, exhibits a March precipitation maximum. Eastern Kentucky shows a July precipitation maximum with a strong secondary peak in March. October is usually the driest month in the state. Kentucky receives about twelve inches of snowfall annually, but most winter precipitation falls as rain, drizzle, or sleet. Ice storms occasionally cause major ecological disturbance in Kentucky.
Effective management of natural resources requires the combination of high-quality science and the availability of data-rich information. A key information need for fish and wildlife resource managers, scientists, and educators is the current state of knowledge about species and their habitats.
Wildlife habitat is a concept related to a particular wildlife species. More specifically, habitat is an area with the combination of the necessary resources (e.g., food, cover, water) and environmental conditions (temperature, precipitation, presence or absence of predators and competitors) that promotes occupancy by individuals of a given species (or population), and allows those individuals to survive and reproduce. The arrangement of these habitat resources and features to meet the biological needs of a species identifies the habitat niche a species occupies. From a systems perspective this provides a framework for the ecological role or function that individual species play within the environment.
In general, terrestrial habitats in Kentucky are either directly or closely linked to forests. The Kentucky Biodiversity Task Force (1995) estimated that forests covered 90-95 percent of Kentucky at the time of settlement and that barrens and other open communities covered 5-10 percent (Appendix 1.8). Today Kentucky is about 47 percent forested, and the original barrens exist only in a few small remnants. Several classification systems exist for organizing the forests, but recognizing all of the different forest classifications is beyond the scope of this strategy. Jones (2005) recently published a guide to the vascular flora of Kentucky. This work was used extensively by terrestrial taxonomic group leaders to develop the habitat guilds (Section 3.3.2). Readers desiring a more thorough discussion of forests and other vegetative communities are referred to Jones (2005).
Wetland habitats form the transition between terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Even though wetlands occur throughout the state, the major wetlands of Kentucky are the bottomland hardwood forests concentrated on the broad floodplains and poorly drained areas in western Kentucky in the Coastal Plain (Mississippi Embayment) and Shawnee Hills regions. Forests along all of the major rivers and streams are the remnants of forests that occupied the associated floodplain. Some of the most productive natural areas in Kentucky are wetlands. They once covered an estimated 1.6 million acres, but have been reduced to about 320,000 acres, an 80 percent loss (Dahl, 1990). Many of the remaining wetlands have also been degraded.
Aquatic habitats in Kentucky include streams, oxbow lakes, sloughs, springs, and cave streams. These habitats range from small headwater streams to the Mississippi River and also include 23 major reservoirs, 147 public lakes, and well over 200,000 farm ponds. There are 89,431 miles of streams and 40,409 acres of surface water in Kentucky (Kentucky Division of Water, 2005). Stream habitat conditions differ according to gradient, volume and constancy of flow, current velocity, water clarity, development of riffles and pools, and nature of the bottom materials (Pflieger, 1975). Taxonomic group leaders used the habitat classification system presented by Burr and Warren, 1986 (Section 3.3.1).
Level III (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2002) and level IV (Woods et al. 2002) ecoregions formed the basis for our spatial assessment of terrestrial SGCN and their habitats (Appendix 1.9 and Appendix 1.10). There are 7 level III ecoregions in Kentucky. The Interior Low Plateaus (ILP) comprises the largest single ecoregion and occupies a central location within the state. This ecoregion includes the Bluegrass area around Lexington, the karst region including a portion of Mammoth Cave National Park, and all of the Land Between the Lakes National Forest. Mammoth Cave National Park lies in both the ILP and the Interior River Valleys and Hills ecoregion (IRVH). This ecoregion is made up of nearly level lowlands that are dominated by agriculture and forested hills (Woods et al. 2002). Forested bottomland wetlands were once common here but these have largely been replaced and/or degraded by extensive agriculture and coal mining. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain and Mississippi Valley Loess Plains ecoregions occupy the far western portions of Kentucky. Here is found the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and the overall topography flattens forming numerous swamps, sloughs. Eastern Kentucky contains 3 ecoregions, the Southwest Appalachians, Central Appalachians, and Western Allegheny Plateau. All these are associated with steep relief, head water streams, and large blocks of deciduous forest cover.
The level III ecoregions were subdivided into 25 level IV ecoregions by Woods et al. 2002. All but 4 of the 25 continue into similar parts of adjacent states (Griffith et al. 1998; Woods et al. 1998). The digital boundary data along with highly descriptive text (Appendix 1.11) was developed through a collaborative effort between many federal and state agencies along with non-governmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. These finer scale ecoregion boundaries are ideal for coordinating efforts across political and administrative boundaries. They form a good representative of the ecologic and biologic diversity in Kentucky. Biological information about these ecoregions is easily shared with adjoining states. As described in Section 4.4 Level IV ecoregions formed the basis for identifying conservation areas for terrestrial SGCN.
Watersheds (hydrologic units) were used to examine the distribution of aquatic SGCN (U.S. Geological Survey, 2001a; U.S. Geological Survey, 2001b). We employed a 2-tiered approach by using both large (8-digit hydrologic units) and smaller watersheds (14 digit hydrologic units). There are 42 distinct 8-digit watersheds ranging in size from approximately 9,000 acres (Obion Creek) to 2,075,247 acres (Kentucky River) with an average area of 615,772 acres (Appendix 1.12). All drain into either the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers. Kentucky shares many of these 8-digit watershed basins with Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia providing further opportunity for coordination with neighboring states. We used the 8-digit watershed boundaries to delineate conservation areas for fishes, lampreys, and mussels (Section 4.3). There are 9,096 14-digit hydrologic units that vary in size from under 1 acre up to 138,977 acres and averaging 2,844 acres. These smaller watersheds were used to identify ‘hot spots’ for aquatic species (Section 4.3.3).
The Division of Water, under the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, is the lead state agency for monitoring and assessing Kentucky’s watersheds. They have initiated a multi-year project, the Watershed Management Initiative (http://www.watersheds.ky.gov/framework/). The KDFWR has participated in this collaborative effort since its inception. Continued cooperation and expansion of these existing programs are key components for successful implementation of this CWCS for aquatic organisms.
This section provides a general overview of the CWCS planning process. More detailed methodologies for making decisions are included in other sections of this document, especially in Section 3.4
The simple objective of any planning process is to promote decisions that are informed, understood, accepted, and able to be implemented. An additional objective is to promote ongoing learning through the planning process so that future decisions can be better informed. With an acknowledgment of these objectives and an acceptance of the KDFWR goals and the State and Tribal Wildlife Conservation Grants Legislation, our planning process for the CWCS is structured with several fundamental elements at its core:
Appropriate priority is placed on those species with the greatest conservation need. The CWCS planning process is a dynamic process and the CWCS is a living document; consequently, the process will continue long after the first iteration of the Strategy is completed.
Informed decisions are those well grounded in an understanding of current conditions and future trends, all at spatial and temporal scales appropriate to the issues that define the planning process. Informed decisions build upon current ecological and human systems of the planning area and current knowledge of those systems. Hence, the CWCS planning process is outward-looking to capture the full scope of the issues involved, is built upon comprehensive assessments that describe the ecological as well as the social elements of the planning area, and is grounded in science. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and relational databases were used throughout the planning process. The 5 “species/technical committees” reviewed existing literature, including other plans; consulted with other experts; and used best professional judgment to identify issues facing “species with greatest conservation needs” and their habitats and to develop and prioritize conservation actions to abate those issues.
The planning committees reviewed numerous plans developed by other agencies. These included but were not limited to: North American Waterfowl Plan (2004), Partner-in-Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan (Rich et al. 2004), United States Shorebird Conservation Plan (Brown et al. 2001), North American Waterbird Conservation Plan (Kushlan et al. 2002), Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture Migratory Bird Science Team (2002), Kentucky Biodiversity Task Force (1995), TNC Ecoregional Plans (TNC, Unpublished data) , Kentucky Watershed Management Initiative (Kentucky Division of Water 2004, 5 plans), Daniel Boone National Forest Plan (U.S. Forest Service 2004), Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area Plan (2004), Jefferson National Forest Plan (U.S. Forest Service 2004), Federally listed species recovery plans (9 plans), National Invasive Species Plan (National Invasive Species Council 2001), National Strategy and Implementation Plan for Invasive Species Management (U.S. Forest Service 2004), Habitat management Guidelines for Amphibians and Reptiles of the Midwest (Kingsbury and Gibson 2002, Partners for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation), and An Assessment and Strategy for the Conservation of Aquatic Resources on the Daniel Boone National Forest (Aquatic Resource Assessment Team 2001).
The CWCS planning process is collaborative in nature, fostering communication, coordination and problem solving across a diverse spectrum of individuals, organizations, agencies, and governments whose concurrence, involvement, and action are essential to the success of the CWCS planning process. Early in the planning process we organized a steering committee, a core committee, a partner committee, and 5 technical/species specialists committees. The partners committee included representatives from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Kentucky Division of Water, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to the partners committee, we communicated with other state and federal natural resources management agencies throughout the planning process.
The CWCS planning process is designed to illuminate the desired future conditions of not just the Department but also other affected interests. Prior to initiating this process, KDFWR and its partners conducted more than 40 regional and statewide public meetings (9 Strategic Plan, 11 Biodiversity Task Force, 15 Smart Growth, and at least one in each of the 7 river basins during the Division of Water’s watershed planning initiative). These meetings framed issues relating to sustaining Kentucky’s Biological Diversity. Participants repeatedly told us that sustaining Kentucky’s diverse wildlife was important, but an equal number told us that maintaining private landowner rights was important. They encouraged us to provide private landowners with technical, financial, and educational assistance to enhance their stewardship capacity. The incorporation of independent review ensures that the decisions are sound and credible beyond KDFWR. Throughout the CWCS planning process draft documents were provided to technical experts across Kentucky for their comments.
Decisions that are able to be implemented are those made in a manner that recognizes institutional, political, budgetary, and behavior realities and incentives and that builds the capacity for stewardship. Since 92% of the land in Kentucky is in private ownership, successful conservation depends on the commitment of the people living with wildlife. Habitats on these lands will only be preserved if compatible with long-term economic and social benefits.
Planning should be structured to promote continuous learning. Hence, the CWCS planning process incorporates monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation mechanisms that promote feedback, learning, and change as knowledge expands, events occur, and public policies evolve. The planning teams also developed performance measures that will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation actions and to adapt actions. Performance based monitoring and the use of adaptive management will result in continuous improvement of the CWCS. This approach is essential to adapting to change and unexpected outcomes (ecological uncertainty).
Sustainability of ecological systems is not and cannot be the sole responsibility of any single agency, organization or landowner. Ecological systems transcend pubic and private land ownerships; they do not recognize or conform to geopolitical boundaries. What happens ecologically on one parcel of land will invariably affect what is possible on adjacent lands. Since much of Kentucky’s total land area is in private ownership, efforts to sustain Kentucky’s biodiversity must involve, gain acceptance of, and increase the stewardship capacity of private landowners. Federal agencies are the largest land holders in Kentucky. Coordination with other federal and state landowners is essential to developing integrated strategies and for adapting these strategies to changed conditions over time.
Much of the data analyzed in this plan was provided by other state agencies, such as the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission and Kentucky Division of Water; federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service; non-governmental organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy; a myriad of university scientists; and interested individuals. It enables policies, strategies, and management decisions to be informed in a scientifically credible manner. The planning process seeks to identify knowledge gaps and research needs to inform management decisions. It fosters understanding and concurrence on the conditions of the land and resources. The desired future includes sustaining Kentucky’s wildlife diversity and the habitats on which it depends.
Coordination with other state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations is essential to conservation of SGCN. KDFWR has recognized this in its conservation efforts prior to the CWCS planning process. Examples of collaborative conservation efforts include the Green River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, the Copperbelly Watersnake Conservation Agreement, and cooperative agreements with the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Land Between the Lakes National Forest and Recreation Area, the Nature Conservancy, Kentucky Division of Forestry, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, and the Army Corp of Engineers. KDFWR is a major participant in the Watershed Management Initiative coordinated by the Kentucky Division of Water. These prior and continuing efforts have provided a good foundation for collaboration and coordination in the CWCS planning process.
Early in the planning process a “partner team” that included the Nature Conservancy, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Kentucky Division of Water, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the KDFWR was developed. We have also provided other state and federal natural resource management agency representatives, university personnel, non-affiliated individuals, and NGOs with copies of draft documents and encouraged them to comment (Appendix 1.13). Employees of the KDFWR not serving specifically on the CWCS team were also informed of the planning efforts and encouraged to provide input.
Through the implementation of the CWCS we will engage those who have the information, knowledge, and expertise to contribute; those who have sole control or authority over lands important to wildlife; those who have the skills, energy, time, and resources to carry out stewardship activities; and those who can independently validate the credibility of stewardship decisions and the reality of achievements.
The involvement of all Kentuckians is vital to the conservation of biological diversity. Initiatives already being taken at multiple levels can be catalyzed by a variety of integrated measures that increase awareness and involvement. Public participation relevant to the CWCS includes involvement prior to initiation of the CWCS planning process and during the planning process.
From 1993 to the present KDFWR has included questions on wildlife conservation in the biannual Kentucky Poll conducted by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center. These polls have helped frame conservation issues by providing information on public attitudes and trends. We also contracted the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center to conduct polls relating to specific issues. These include but are not limited to: Biodiversity Poll (focused on knowledge, attitudes, and values), Landowner Survey, and Smart Growth Survey.
In 1993 and 1994 strategic planning public meetings were conducted in each of the 9 Commission districts. The focus of these meetings was to gain input from the public on the agencies proposal to move from focusing mostly on game species to focusing on all species. More than 1,200 people participated in these meetings. Prior to each public meeting a similar meeting was held with all agency staff in each district.
In 1995 a Biodiversity Task Force was appointed to analyze the current status of biodiversity, identify the human and natural factors affecting it, and make recommendations for sustaining it. It was co-chaired by the Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. It included members from state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, ecological consultants, colleges and universities, industry, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, coal companies, timber companies, and legislators. A major component of the Task Force’s work focused on finding out what Kentuckians think should and should not be done in the effort to conserve biodiversity. The Task Force held 11 public meetings statewide, attracting more than 700 participants and conducted a statewide poll through the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center.
In 1997, KDFWR worked with private landowners and other state and federal agencies to develop the Kentucky Private Lands Council to assist private landowners with conservation projects. Part of this effort included a series of meetings with private landowners to get their input on how state and federal agencies could assist with their conservation efforts. Landowners wanted KDFWR to continue its very successful Habitat Incentive Program and to provide them with more stewardship incentives.
In 2001 a Smart Growth Task Force was appointed by the governor. KDFWR facilitated the work of the Smart Growth Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and Wildlife. Fifteen public meetings were held across the state with more than 2,000 participants. In anticipation of CWCS planning we solicited input on wildlife conservation issues. The University of Kentucky Survey Research Center conducted a statewide poll on attitudes toward Smart Growth.
Even though public input from these efforts were spread over a period of 8 years, the findings of the majority’s opinion was similar:
Surveys of non-industrial landowners showed the most important reasons for owning land were: to pass on to their children and grand children, wildlife conservation, and recreation. Results from our participation in the biannual Kentucky Polls were essentially the same.
Throughout the CWCS planning process KDFWR continued to participate in the biannual Kentucky Poll. Over the 12-year period we have participated in the Kentucky Poll there has been very little shift in attitudes and values toward wildlife. Kentuckians place a high priority on sustaining wildlife populations and two-thirds reported that they participated in some form of wildlife-associated recreation. The 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation had similar results with 40% of Kentuckians watching wildlife and 58% participating in some type of wildlife-associated recreation.
In the 2004 Spring Kentucky Poll, 92.1% of the respondents reported they had Internet access at home, at work, or both and 81.7% said they frequently accessed the Internet. Therefore, we made the draft CWCS available on the KDFWR Website and encouraged readers to comment. We received 339 hits to the site but very few comments. The Kentucky Afield TV Program did a segment on the CWCS and directed interested individuals to the KDFWR website to review and comment on the strategy. Kentucky Afield Magazine also did an article on the CWCS.
This version of Kentucky’s CWCS plan was intended to address each of the 8 elements required by the STWG legislation. Our work consisted largely of gathering existing baseline data and communicating our efforts with others. We viewed implementation as a separate process that will build upon the Plan. Continued development of the Plan is a dynamic process with new information continuously leading to adaptation of the Plan. Important components of this process include continued coordination with partners and adaptive management with periodic review of the document.
We recognize that effective implementation will require full involvement of our conservation partners, taxonomic experts, and the public. We are committed to establishing a multi-agency committee that will guide implementation of the Plan. There will be many tasks for this group that includes the following:
We will complete comprehensive reviews at intervals of not more than 5 years. These reviews will be guided by the following fundamental principles with appropriate priority placed on those species with the greatest conservation need:
We will use three types of reviews: internal review, partners review, and public review. Internal review will be a continuous process. We will use performance based monitoring identified in the strategy and new information from research and monitoring to adapt the strategy. Partners and public review will also be a continuous process but will be more intense during the comprehensive 5-year review.
Implementation of this strategy is not a precise process; there are many unknowns that are not under the control of resource managers. We will acknowledge the dynamic nature of ecological systems. Consequently, some strategies that were developed using the best available scientific information in 2005 will need to be adapted. These systems are also subject to anthropogenic disturbances that are beyond the control of resource managers. These changes will also require adaptations to the Plan.
We will acknowledge the significance of natural ecological processes. Kentucky’s landscapes will continuously change as a result of anthropogenic activity, natural succession, disturbance, climate change, loss of site productivity, establishment and spread of nonnative species, habitat fragmentation, loss of landscape connectivity and the loss of native species diversity. For example, we recently lost most of the Pine Ecosystem in Kentucky due to the Southern Pine Beetle outbreak. Natural processes will be considered in defining desired future conditions as well as in developing strategies for conservation.
We will acknowledge the uncertainty and inherent variability of ecological systems. Uncertainty arises from an incomplete understanding of how ecological systems work; from insufficient information; and from demographic, environmental, and genetic stochasticity. We will use results of new research and monitoring to adapt the strategy.
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