The spring showing of native plants and wildflowers along Bowen Branch in Owen County is something to see. This natural display of diversity is just one reason landowners Connie May and Loren Curtis decided to put their property into an easement with Woods and Waters Land Trust.
“Our land is embraced on three sides by creeks. We don’t own all of the land on both sides, but the forest on both sides of the creek is beautiful and mature with lots of big trees,” May said.
May and Curtis’ property is the most recent to be protected by Woods and Waters Land Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting special natural lands in Central Kentucky’s lower Kentucky River watershed.
Having gotten to know this land since the 1980s, the couple spends a lot of time in the forest and around the creeks. May, a landscape designer focusing on Kentucky-native species with her Chrysalis Natural Landscapes, hikes in the forest each day with their dogs, Frankie and Oscar.
“Our forest has so much to offer,” May said. “Every little patch of Owen County forest is important and special, but the 80 acres we live on is extraordinary because it is one small section of a 3,000-acre contiguous forest shared with many other landowners.”
This 3,000-acre forest is ecologically significant because the Bluegrass Region has fewer forests of this size or larger than any other region in the state, according to a 2016 Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission study. A diversity of tree species — including red oak, white oak, sugar maple and shagbark hickory — and multiple ages of trees in this mesic deciduous forest are indicators of good forest health.
On the May-Curtis property, more than 6,000 linear feet of streambank on Bowen Branch and its tributaries is forested. Land conservation here means healthier land across the region, as Bowen Branch eventually flows into Sawdridge Creek, which is part of the Kentucky River system. The percentage of forest within a watershed is one of the most important predictors of water quality, according to a study by Brown and Binkley.
The couple has been a supporter of WWLT since the organization’s founding in 2007.
“To my mind, nothing is more important than protecting the natural world. Second is reminding people how important nature is to them personally. WWLT connects people to nature by providing a way for them to help protect it: community supported conservation,” said May.
Woods and Waters Land Trust, nationally accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, is dedicated to protecting and connecting forests and streams through voluntary conservation agreements with private landowners in the lower Kentucky River watershed. Established in 2007, WWLT currently holds seven conservation easements on over 600 acres and owns 34 acres. You can support land conservation in Central Kentucky by becoming a supporter of WWLT or by putting your land into a conservation easement. Learn more at WoodsAndWatersTrust.org.