Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge

What We Do

Currently on the refuge, approximately 295 acres are in row crop production (corn, soybeans, or wheat) under a Cooperative Farm Agreement, 327 acres are in early successional fields or native warm season grasses (big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, sideoats gramma, switchgrass, and eastern gamagrass), 122 acres of former crop land have been planted to hardwoods, 30 acres of erosion drainages are being restored to grassland or hedgerow habitat, 16 acres are managed as shallow water areas, and the remaining 256 acres is forested land dominated by upland oaks and hickories.

Management and Conservation

Cooperative Farming Program

Annually, through a cooperative agreement, a local farmer is permitted to plant agricultural crops on approximately 295 acres of the refuge. These designated agricultural lands are managed in a crop rotation, and the majority of the refuge lands are planted via no-till technologies.  The farm agreements authorize farmers to harvest a certain percentage of crops, while leaving the remaining percentage of crop standing in the field for use by wildlife. Two purposes and values of the crop share are: as a food source, and habitat cover for the wildlife utilizing the refuge.

Prescribed Fire Program

Early-successional habitat and Native Warm Season Grass (NWSG) management is most effectively and efficiently accomplished through prescribed fire.  Prescribed burning in NWSG fields helps maintain habitat conditions for several targeted grassland bird species. A management goal for the refuge is to reestablish and maintain acreage of NWSG and early-successional habitats for the benefit of the following target species:  grasshopper sparrow, dickcissel, northern harriers, short-eared owls, loggerhead shrikes, and northern bobwhite. NWSG thrives in a regular burn rotation and benefits from frequent fire. 

Law Enforcement

Protecting resources and people on our refuges is the fundamental responsibility of refuge officers. The mission of the Refuge Law Enforcement Program is to support the administration of the National Wildlife Refuge System through the management and protection of natural, historic and cultural resources, property, and people on lands and waters of our national wildlife refuges.