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A river banked by trees and with smokestacks in the distance.
Information icon The Ohio River borders the north end of the proposed conservation partnership area for the Green River National Wildlife Refuge in Henderson County. Photo by Kristen Peters, USFWS.

Green River National Wildlife Refuge

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposes establishing a second national wildlife refuge administered in Kentucky to protect high-quality wildlife and fish habitats near the confluence of the Green River and Ohio River. With support and direction from Congress, the Service is proposing the Green River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Henderson County, Kentucky.

National Wildlife Refuge System in Kentucky

The Service manages the National Wildlife Refuge System, a national network of public lands and waters devoted to the conservation of fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida’s Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown to include more than 560 refuges and other protected areas. They encompass 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the remote Pacific.

The National Wildlife Refuge System includes Clarks River NWR near Benton, Kentucky, which is the only national wildlife refuge located solely in Kentucky. Visitors to Clarks River NWR enjoy wildlife-related recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation.

In 2018, Congress directed the Service to establish Kentucky’s second national wildlife refuge fully located in Henderson County. The Service has initiated the planning process for this proposed addition to the National Wildlife Refuge System and is referring to it as the Green River National Wildlife Refuge.


The proposed Green River NWR has numerous goals including:

  • Establish a second national wildlife refuge fully located in Kentucky to support fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation;
  • Protect and manage wetlands and bottomland forest habitats to support waterfowl, migratory birds, and threatened and endangered species;
  • Provide high-quality hunting and sport fishing;
  • Provide opportunities for public use and environmental education and interpretation;
  • Collaborate with partners to protect and enhance biodiversity and water quality and quantity within the Ohio River and Green River watersheds, benefiting both people and wildlife; and
  • Ensure healthy wildlife populations for the benefit of Kentuckians and all Americans.


The Green River area in Henderson County has long been valued for its diverse system of bottomland hardwood forests, wetlands, upland bluffs, and agricultural lands that provide high-quality habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds, and sport fish. In 2001 and 2010, the Service submitted proposals to establish the Green River NWR to protect the area for wildlife, but higher national priorities shelved these proposals.

A forested area with vegetated understory
Forested area within the proposed Conservation Partnership Area for Green River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Lee Andrews, USFWS.

Conservation Partnership Area

The Service proposes a Conservation Partnership Area (CPA), an area within which the Service would work with willing sellers or partners to purchase or protect approximately 24,000 acres, which is the planning target for the refuge. Private landowners’ rights are not affected by the CPA or the refuge. The Service will work with willing sellers to acquire lands as opportunities and funding allow. Landowners have no obligation to sell their land or otherwise participate in the proposed refuge.

Establishing the Refuge

The Service and its partners will work with willing landowners to establish the proposed Green River NWR through several methods, including donations and purchasing land at fair market value and development rights through conservation easements.

This is a long-term effort that may take decades to complete. The number of willing sellers and availability of funding will determine the timeline for completing the purchase of approximately 24,000 acres for Green River NWR.

Funding the Refuge

Possible funding sources to purchase land for the refuge may come from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. These funds are collected from the sale of federal duck stamps, entrance fees from some refuges, import duties on arms and ammunition, and from the sale of offshore oil leases.

The proposed I-69 Ohio River crossing project is likely to affect native fish and wildlife, and lead to habitat loss and fragmentation. As a result, land may be acquired for the refuge using Federal Highway Administration funds to offset these impacts and habitat-restoration efforts.

Planning process

A draft Land Protection Plan (LPP) and an Environmental Assessment (EA) has been developed and made publicly available. The LPP informs landowners and interested stakeholders of the proposal to establish the refuge. The Service prepared the EA as required by the National Environmental Policy Act to analyze different strategies for land protection in the area.

A grassy area surrounded by mature trees.
Lands within the proposed Conservation Partnership Area for Green River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Lee Andrews, USFWS.

The Service is providing the public an opportunity to review and comment on the Draft LPP and EA. Once the public review and comment period ends, the Service will evaluate the comments and make any changes needed before developing a final plan, which the Service Director approves.

How you can get involved

The Service encourages the public to participate in its effort to establish Green River NWR. It will host a community information meeting on August 20, 2019, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Preston Arts Center, Henderson Community College, 2660 S. Green St., Henderson, Kentucky.

The Service is accepting comments on the Draft LPP and EA . Any comments must be received by August 30, 2019 Comments should be directed to: Green River NWR Proposal, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 606 Browns Church Road, Jackson, Tennessee, 38305; or e-mail:

Please stay engaged and provide thoughtful, constructive comments as we move forward.

More information


Michael Johnson, Refuge Manager, Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, (270) 527-5770

Tina Chouinard, Project Planner, (731) 432-0981

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