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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 to establish Kentucky’s second national wildlife refuge to protect high quality wildlife and fish habitats near the confluence of the Green River and Ohio River. With support and direction from the U.S. Congress, the Service is proposing to establish 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 encompassing 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 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, the U.S. Congress directed the Service to establish Kentucky’s second national wildlife refuge 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.

Goals

The proposed Green River NWR has numerous goals including:

  • Establish a second national wildlife refuge in Kentucky to support conservation of fish, wildlife, and plants;
  • 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 opportunities;
  • 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 humans and wildlife; and
  • Ensure healthy wildlife populations for the benefit of Kentuckians and all Americans.

Location

The Green River area in Henderson County, Kentucky, 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 these proposals were ultimately unsuccessful due to higher priorities nationally and limited funding.

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 is developing a proposed Conservation Partnership Area (CPA) in Henderson County, Kentucky, where it will focus efforts to protect lands for the benefit of fish and wildlife. A CPA is the area within which the Service would have the ability to work with willing sellers or partners to purchase or protect up to 24,000 acres, which is the planning target for the refuge. The rights of private landowners are not affected by the designation of the CPA or the establishment of 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 at any time.

Establishing the Refuge

The Service and its partners will work with willing landowners to establish the proposed Green River NWR through several methods, including 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 up to 24,000 acres for Green River NWR.

Planning process

The Service will follow a two-step process to establish the refuge. A draft Land Protection Plan (LPP) and an Environmental Assessment (EA) will be developed and made publicly available. The LPP informs landowners and interested stakeholders of the proposal to establish the refuge. The Service prepares 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.

In 2019, the Service will present the public with the Draft LPP and EA, complete with maps showing where the Service would like to create the proposed refuge. The Service will provide an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the proposal. 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 will be approved by the Service Director.

How you can get involved

The Service welcomes and encourages the public to participate in its effort to establish Green River NWR. Please stay engaged and provide thoughtful, constructive comments as we move forward.

More information

Contact

Michael Johnson, Refuge Manager, Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge
michael_johnson@fws.gov, (270) 527-5770

Tina Chouinard, Project Planner
tina_chouinard@fws.gov, (731) 432-0981

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