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Northern Kentucky Sites Part of New State Book Celebrating Conservation

A new book by award-winning nature photographer Dr. Thomas G. Barnes celebrates the properties that have been purchased with the assistance of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund (KHLCF) during its first twenty years.

Kentucky, Naturally displays hundreds of beautiful photographs of the state's protected lands, providing detailed descriptions of each site, including the natural flora and fauna.

Since its beginning, KHLCF has helped protect more than 120 properties in 67 counties, totaling more than 85,000 acres.

Locally, there are six such properties in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton Counties.

The Morning View Heritage Area, purchased with funds from the "Nature's Finest" license plate sales, is a forest that protects some of the upper Licking River watershed, one of the most biologically significant rivers in the nation. The Licking River provides habitat for several endangered mussel species. It is 208 acres. According to KHLCF, parking, trails, and canoe access are under development. The site will be open to daytime foot traffic only. Camping, ATVs, horses, and bicycles are prohibited.

Hawthorne Crossing Conservation Area in Campbell County protects 3,000 linear feet of the Licking River. In 2012, an extensive stream and wetland restoration project was completed by Northern Kentucky University's Center for Applied Ecology. KHLCF reports that parking and hiking trails are under construction and will open to the public soon for hiking, nature study, geological study, and birding during daylight hours. Paddling access from the river is planned. It is 135 acres.

St. Anne Woods & Wetlands in Campbell County is 146 acres, a site where the Sisters of Divine Providence became stewards as part of the St. Anne Convent campus in the 1940s. KHLCF reports that in recent decades, the sisters have partners with Thomas More College, Xavier University, Northern Kentucky University, and others to develop an environmental education and research program. The sisters work closely with the Campbell County Conservation District. The area represents one of the best wetlands along the Ohio River in the region and supports many native species now uncommon around here, such as Jefferson's salamanders and wood frogs.

Boone County Cliffs is now owned by the Boone County Fiscal Court and was originally acquired by The Nature Conservancy. It was dedicated as a state nature preserve to protect the unique glacial features and four forest community types that are present there, according to KHLCF. 46 acres were dedicated in 1987 and an additional 29 were added in 1990. It is named for the twenty to forty foot conglomerate cliffs that outcrop on the valley slopes, deposited by glacial outwash 700,000 years ago.

Dinsmore Woods in Boone County was dedicated by The Nature Conservancy as a state nature preserve in 1990. Its 105 acres are now owned by the Fiscal Court and protects a relatively undisturbed maple-oak-ash forest in the county. Prior to the conservancy's ownership, the woods had owned by one family dating back to the 1830s. KHLCF reports that the maturity and species composition of this woodland are attributed to the fact that it has never been commercially logged. It is adjacent to the Dinsmore Homestead near Burlington.

Gunpowder Creek is 125 acres in Boone County, protected to provide public accessibility for passive recreation and environmental education and to create a greenway with connectivity to a county nature preserve, county park, a Boy Scout camp, and a YMCA camp.


The book is now available in local bookstores, Kentucky state park gift shops, and online.

“There’s nothing I love more than spending time outdoors in the Commonwealth and Kentucky, Naturally showcases the best of Kentucky’s natural beauty,” said First Lady Jane Beshear, “This book will drive readers to experience our state’s outdoor splendor in person, and to appreciate the work of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund.”

“Author and photographer Tom Barnes is truly an artist whose paintbrush is a camera. Kentucky, Naturally will beguile you with scenes and descriptions of intriguing places here in the Commonwealth, with revealing close-ups of wildlife and wild­flowers like Indian paintbrush, monkey faced orchids, great blue herons, ribbon snakes and shining ladies’ tresses, to name a few,” said Don Dott, director of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission and KHLCF board member. ”With locations and directions, this book is also a hiking guide that will guide the reader along these pristine preserves. If you appreciate the beauty of nature, you will love this book! Let it introduce you to Kentucky’s best.”

“Only Tom Barnes could do such an inspirational and accurate job of showcasing the people and places conserved through the Heritage Conservation Fund Board’s programs, staff and supporters,” said Hugh Archer, director of the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust and KHLCF board member. “His understanding of the conservation community and its best scientists make him an expert on where the wild things are, and how they are being protected or in need of attention.”

The KHLCF was established in 1994 to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources and keep its wild ecosystems intact. Reports indicate that more than 105 acres of rural land every day are lost to land conversion, and the state ranks fifth highest in the projected amount of rural land that will be converted to other uses in the future. 

About the Author

Thomas G. Barnes, Ph.D., is a full professor in the Department of Forestry at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Barnes has written extensively on the natural history of Kentucky and has authored more than 50 scientific research articles, 60 cooperative extension publications and 100 magazine articles. His book, Kentucky’s Last Great Places, was nominated for the Kentucky Literary Award in non-fiction. Other published books include Gardening for the Birds, The Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky, The Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, The Gift of Creation––Images from Scripture and Earth, and How to Find and Photograph Kentucky Wildflowers.

The KHLCF is funded in part by the sale of “Nature’s Finest” license plates.  For more information, visit the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund website at or contact Zeb Weese at 502-564-2320.

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