About Us

About Us

Eastern newt, red eft stage ~ photo by Greg Abernathy, KNLT

Our Story

Taking in the viewWe are a nationally accredited nonprofit that uses a science-driven and community-minded approach to protect Kentucky’s irreplaceable wildlands. Foundational to ecological, human, cultural and economic health, the benefits of wildlands are vast – maintaining natural systems that sustain life on Earth, allowing wildlife (living things in wild places) to flourish not only for humanity but for their own sake, enabling nature’s recovery and fostering healthy communities. Since 1995, KNLT has protected more than 50,000 acres of wildlands throughout the Commonwealth, ranging from the lush eastern mountains, to the rolling central forests and grasslands, to the meandering western sloughs..

Large, ecologically healthy, and connected landscapes are essential to protecting biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem resilience that in turn safeguards communities. Our approach focuses on increasing and restoring landscape connectivity, and fostering collaboration in ways that transcend arbitrary political boundaries and ideologies. KNLT is committed to fulfilling our mission and advancing the goals in this plan in a just and equitable manner.

Our History

• KNLT was formed by a group of friends and launched a successful campaign to raise the funds necessary to purchase the old growth forest that is now part Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve.

• KNLT worked with Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission to acquire additional lands at Blanton Forest and provided stewardship assistance.

• KNLT honored David Burns with the first One Square Mile Award for his commitment to protecting the wildlands of Kentucky.

• KNLT acquired the 741-acre Arrington property, now part of our Salt Trace Gap Preserve,
• KNLT purchased the 786-acre Parsons tract and later resold the property to the Kentucky Department of Parks for the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail. A portion of this tract later became the E. Lucy Braun State Park State Nature Preserve.

• KNLT assisted Kentucky Department of Parks in purchasing the 1,027-acre Howard Property as an addition to the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail.

• KNLT purchased 386 acres in Harlan County to connect two noncontiguous tracts of Blanton Forest Nature Preserve Design.
• KNLT and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Kentucky Ecological Services Field office partnered to establish the Indiana Bat Conservation Fund to help protect bat, forest, and at-risk terrestrial species Kentucky.

• KNLT received its first donated conservation easement of the 83-acre Good Spring Farm in McCreary County.
• KNLT joined forces with Fort Knox to purchase conservation easements in the forest corridor around Fort Knox and launches the Bernheim-Fort Knox Wildlands Corridor project.

• KNLT acquired two conservation easements in Bullitt County, totaling nearly 308 acres within the Bernheim-Fort Knox Wildlands Corridor.
• KNLT’s “South America” project was featured on KET’s Kentucky Life.
• KNLT paid tribute to major donors to the Blanton Forest campaign with a permanent plaque at Blanton Forest. Those honored were David Burns, Tom Dupree, Sr., Augusta Wallace Lyons, Herb Emrich, and Sara Shallenberger Brown.
• KNLT purchased nearly 2,000 acres in the area known as “South America” on the southern end of Pine Mountain in Kentucky.
• The Indiana Bat Conservation Fund protected over 2,650 acres of bat habitat.

• KNLT received a gift of 140 acres that protect an important water source in Bell County. The donated land became the Colson-Fitzpatrick Preserve.
• KNLT’s Executive Director, Hugh Archer, attended the White House Conference on Conservation and the Outdoors, as a representative for Kentucky.
• KNLT purchased 155 acres creating the Crooked Creek Preserve in Bullitt County. The preserve is part of the Bernheim-Fort Knox Wildlands Corridor.
• KNLT sold 1,864 acres to Kentucky State Nature Preserves establishing the Archer Benge State Nature Preserve in Whitley County.
• KNLT was selected for the Land Trust Alliance Excellence Enhancement Program.
• The Indiana Bat Conservation Fund protected over 4,500 acres of bat habitat.

• KNLT acquired 224-acre addition to Salt Trace Gap Preserve.
• KNLT began its partnership with the Forecastle Foundation.
• KNLT honored the Augusta Wallace Lyons Family with the One Square Mile Award for their commitment to protecting wildlands in the Kentucky.
• The Indiana Bat Conservation Fund protected over 7,150 acres of bat habitat.

• KNLT purchase 46 acres adjacent to the Archer Benge State Nature Preserve creating the Hyslope Preserve.
• KNLT honored Thomas Dupree, Sr. with the One Square Mile Award for his commitment to protecting wildlands in the Kentucky.
• The Indiana Bat Conservation Fund protected over 500 acres of bat habitat.

• KNLT sold 386 acres to Kentucky State Nature Preserves as an addition to Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve in Harlan County.
• KNLT expanded the Pine Mountain Wildlands Project targeting 14 new tracts totaling over 9,000 acres.
• KNLT honored Christina Lee Brow with the One Square Mile Award for her commitment to protecting wildlands in the Kentucky.
• KNLT was included in the Royal Visit activities, and staff had an opportunity to briefly discuss KNLT’s work with Prince Charles.
• The Indiana Bat Conservation Fund was renamed to Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund and was expanded to cover the newly listed Northern long-ear bat.

• KNLT became a nationally accredited land trust and received the Energy & Environment Cabinet Secretary’s Award for our public-private partnerships.
• KNLT purchased 2,050 acres on Pine Mountain near Pineville in Bell County establishing the Narrows Preserve.
• KNLT acquired three tracts of forestland totaling 651 acres along Pine Mountain in Bell County establishing the Calloway Gap and Cumberland River Bottoms Preserves.
• The Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund protected nearly 6,000 acres.

• KNLT purchased and protected a 353-acre addition to the Narrows Preserve on Pine Mountain.
• KNLT purchased nearly 2,000 acres on Pine Mountain near Cumberland, Kentucky creating three new preserves: Line Fork Preserve, Hurricane Gap Preserve, and Kingdom Come Preserve.

• KNLT was honored with the opportunity to hold a retreat at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Pocantico Center in New York. The gathering of KNLT leadership, partners and consultants offered a unique opportunity to review our strategic positioning.

• KNLT purchased and protected a 376-acres in Harlan County establishing the Laden Trail Preserve; the new preserve is adjacent to Kentenia State Forest and near Pine Mountain Settlement School.
• KNLT purchased and protected a 127-acres in Whitley County establishing the Granshire Preserve; the new preserve is adjacent to the Archer Benge State Nature Preserve.


Our People

KNLT OutingStaff

Greg Abernathy, Executive Director
Donna Alexander, Program Manager
Preston Lacy, Conservation Director
Nicole Breyette, Development Director
Angie Allman, Development Coordinator
Derrick Lindsay, Stewardship Coordinator
Brittany Murphy, Wildlands Steward


Kelly D. Bartley, Board Chair
Lexington, KY

Julia Taylor, Vice Chair
Associate, Strobo Barkley PLLC
Louisville, KY

Bert Lyons , Secretary & Treasurer
Former Assistant Adjunct Professor, UofL
Eminence, KY

Rebecca Allan
Visual Artist
Bronx, NY

Bethany Baxter
Attorney, Childers & Baxter PLLC
Lexington, KY

Ivy Brashear
PhD Candidate, University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY

Greg Davis
Professor, UK Dept of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Lexington, KY

Premalatha Durham
Community Builder
Louisville, KY

Marc Evans
Retired State Ecologist, KY State Nature Preserves
Frankfort, KY

Mo McKnight Howe
Owner, Revelry Boutique Gallery
Louisville, KY

Melanie Ratliff
Business Manager
Louisville, KY

Kathleen Shelton
Philanthropy Advisor
Portland, OR

Zoé Strecker
Visual Artist, Writer & Art Professor, Transy University
Lexington, KY

Zeb Weese
Retired Executive Director, Office of KY Nature Preserves
Frankfort, KY


Hugh Archer
Founding Chair & retired Director of KNLT
Waddy, KY

Dr. Sara Ash
Professor of Biology, Lindsey Wilson College
Columbia, KY

Wendell Berry
Farmer & Author
Port Royal, KY

Donald S. Dott, Jr.
Chair, Kentucky Land Trusts Coalition
Louisville, KY

Susan Hamilton
Conservation Planning Consultant
Louisville, KY

Laura Keller
Retired Attorney, Stites & Harbison
Lexington, KY

Erik Reece
Author & English Professor, University of Kentucky
Versailles, KY

Director Emeritus

Judith McCandless, KNLT Founder
CPA & Former Environmental Planning Consultant
Louisville, KY

Edward Allgeier
Former Real Estate Appraiser, Allgeier Company
Louisville, KY

Carl Breeding
Attorney, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP
Frankfort, KY

Roy Crawford
Mining & Forensic Engineer, R.R. Crawford Engineering
Whitesburg, KY

Laurel Fuson
Louisville, KY

James G. Kuhns, Sr., M.D.
Retired Pathologist
Louisville, KY

John Potter
Former State Circuit Court Judge for Jefferson County
Louisville, KY

Jack A. Wilson
Former Administrator in Environmental Protection
Lexington, KY


Partnerships are key to our conservation successes. With limited funding for land acquisition partnering and collaborating with local, regional and global organizations is essential to our effort. We have successfully cultivated a strong and wide-reaching group of private, nonprofit and government agency partners.

Federal Partners:


State Partners:


Nonprofit Partners:

logo_scp logo_wildwaysnetlogo_kltc
logo_kwoalogo_kcclogo_kyww logo_krc

Private Partners:


News & Wildlands Blog

  • Laurel Gap Preserve Established (4/22/2022) We are celebrating Earth Day with the announcement of our newest preserve. Earlier this spring KNLT protected 269 acres of wildlands establishing the Laurel Gap Preserve on Pine Mountain in Whitley County. The new preserve is within one of the most remote stretches of the mountain along the Kentucky-Tennessee state line. Laurel Gap builds upon a network of more than 8,000 acres of connected…
  • 20 Years of Wildlands Conservation (3/30/2022) KNLT is celebrating Donna Alexander and her 20 years of service to wildlands conservation. From Blanton Forest to Warbler Ridge Donna has played a key role in advancing conservation along Pine Mountain and throughout the Commonwealth. She has helped protect over 50,000 acres from the mountains of eastern Kentucky to the sloughs of western Kentucky. A love of mountains and the outdoors…
  • Salt Trace Gap Preserve Expands (3/25/2022) Over the winter Kentucky Natural Lands Trust (KNLT) protected an additional 431 acres of wildlands on Pine Mountain in Harlan County. KNLT worked with a local family and a regional company to acquire two separate tracts of land that expanded its Salt Trace Gap Preserve to 2,391 acres. The newly safeguarded wildlands protect forested habitat and headwater streams within a migratory corridor that stretches through…
  • Warbler Ridge Expands to Over 3,000 Acres (1/31/2022) Kentucky Natural Lands Trust (KNLT) has been working with a diverse group of landowners along Pine Mountain for decades. Over the last few years, a series of five KNLT acquisitions in Harlan and Letcher counties established the Warbler Ridge Preserve which now protects 3,045 acres of vital forested habitat, headwater streams and links of the unfolding 1,800-mile Great Eastern Trail. At the end of 2021,…

Visit our News Archive & Wildlands Blog Archive.

Strategic Plan

The Plan

The Kentucky Natural Lands Trust (KNLT) 2015-2020 Strategic Plan will serve as a guide toward implementing KNLT’s goals for the next five years. This executive summary provides an overview of the Strategic Plan. It is our hope that this Plan will guide us on the path to protecting, connecting and restoring, for current and future generations, all the beauty and benefits of our Kentucky wildlands.


KNLT is a statewide land trust committed to preserving our diminishing natural places, protecting our rich biodiversity and ensuring a future that will continue to inspire new generations of environmental stewards.

Our First 20 Years

KNLT began 20 years ago when a group of friends came together to protect Blanton Forest, the Commonwealth’s largest known old-growth forest. The endeavor resulted in the establishment of a state nature preserve that continues to grow in size with KNLT’s assistance.


  • Established and expanded Blanton Forest, a 3,510 acres state nature preserve that protects the largest remaining tract of old growth forest in the state
  • Launched the Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor, the largest conservation effort in Kentucky history, to protect the 125-mile long ridgeline in southeastern Kentucky
  • Protected over 7,000 acres of wildlands through direct purchase, primarily on Pine Mountain and near Bernheim-Fort Knox
  • Assisted in protecting over 25,000 of wildlands across the state (e.g. Big Bone Lick State Park, Clarks River National Wildlife Refugee, Big Rivers WMA/State Forest)
  • Evolved into a key conservation organization in state and region with private, nonprofit and government agency conservation partners

Our successes come from a dedicated board and staff, extensive partnership network and committed donor base.

Current Efforts & Opportunities

KNLT works to protect, connect and restore wildlands that embody the natural beauty and heritage of our state, from the eastern mountains to the western swamps. Wildlands both sustain and inspire us. They are home to many unique plants and animals that collectively form a living support system that provides clean water to drink and air to breath. Large connected landscapes that protect wildlands and migratory corridors are essential to establishing resilient areas that enable species and natural communities to adopt and survive as climate shifts.

Kentucky is a reflection of the world, a place of amazing biodiversity under intense pressure from natural resource extraction and urbanization. Wildlands are critically important to sustaining local, regional and global communities; they are a foundation and essential part of the transitional economy. We must work to protect our sacred land, air and water. Having lost so much already, it is essential that we protect and steward what remains.

Goals & Strategies

To guide our work and respond to the challenges before us, KNLT has identified the following goals and detailed the strategies to achieve them in this next five-year period.

Goal I: Protecting & Connecting Wildlands
Land protection is KNLT’s primary goal, with an aim to protect large forest tracts and migratory corridors. Our flagship project, the Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor, remains the key focus, but our efforts continue to expand into other biologically diverse and important areas of the state. We continue to foster and develop essential partnerships locally, regionally and globally. These partnerships are essential in meeting our goals and the conservation needs throughout the region.

  • Strategy A: Protect Key Wildlands in Ecologically Significant Wildlife Corridors
    o Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor: Pine Mountain is a 125-mile long ridge comprised of a series of large forest tracts that are only broken by a few small roads and cumulatively represents one of the largest forest tracts remaining in the state. The mountain provides critical habitat for hundreds of rare species, projects part of the headwaters of three major rivers, offers vast tourism opportunities and holds potential for a local and sustainable forestry economy. Pine Mountain is a resilient intact ecosystem through a region of extensive resource extraction. KNLT is working in four primary areas along the mountain and has targeted 14 projects covering more than 9,000 acres.
    o Bernheim-Fort Knox Wildlands Corridor: This wildlands corridor project will protect forest and farmland between Bernheim, an over 14,000-acre research forest and arboretum, and Fort Knox, a 109,000-acre US Army post south of Louisville, Kentucky. The corridor has some of the largest tracts of contiguous forest in the state, provides important habitat that is uncommon in this region and protects unique wetlands, headwater streams and riparian forests within the Salt River watershed. KNLT current efforts are focused on expanding Knobs State Forest & Wildlife Management Area, a 1,500 acre protected area within the corridor.
    o Other Projects: KNLT continues to work on several outlier projects within known biodiversity target areas of the state. Landowners and government partners interested in protecting their land frequently contact KNLT. Many government contacts result in partnerships that combine resources for successful protection efforts. Often landowner inquiries are outside of our focus areas thus our efforts to start and mentor new and small land trusts are essential to the greater goal of more land protection throughout the state.
  • Strategy B: Manage and Support Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund: The Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund (IBCF), originally named the Indiana Bat Conservation Fund, is a partnership between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Kentucky Ecological Services Field Office and KNLT. The IBCF is a multi-faceted fund that uses a combination of grant, mitigation, and federal discretionary funding to focus resources on bat, forest, and at-risk terrestrial species conservation in Kentucky. Since its inception, the IBCF has handled more than $19 million and has helped protect more than 15,000 acres of important bat and forest habitat in Kentucky.
  • Strategy C: Maintain Long-term Focus and Engagement in Statewide Conservation Efforts: KNLT will continue dialogues about other important regions in Kentucky in an effort to chart expanded future efforts.
  • Strategy D: Foster and Develop Conservation Partnerships: Partnerships are key to our conservation efforts. With limited funding for land acquisition partnering and collaborating with local, regional and global organizations is essential to our effort. We have successfully cultivated a strong and wide reaching group of private, nonprofit and government agency partners.
  • Strategy E: Identify Land Acquisition Funding:
    Target acquisitions will require a mixture of private, nonprofit and government agency funding. Traditional private and government sources need to be supplement with mitigation banking, tax credits, enhanced deductions and royalties from emerging technologies.

Goal II: Steward Wildlands
Protecting and restoring the wildlands is a key goal of KNLT. Our existing land holdings, along with the suite of conservation lands in our major project areas represent core protected areas that must be properly managed, maintained and defended. Threats, such as invasive species, must be anticipated and addressed to minimize impacts to these wildlands.

  • Strategy A: Maintain, Manage and Defend Conservation Value of KNLT Fee Owned Lands and Conservation Partners’ Lands: Once wildlands have been protected ongoing stewardship is essential to maintaining the conservation value of the land. Management plans will help guide stewardship activity and continued partnerships with key conservation organizations will aid in maintaining and defending preserves.
  • Strategy B: Maintain Conservation Value of KNLT Conservation Easements: Annual monitoring is necessary to both ensure the conservation value and relationship with the landowner are maintained.
  • Strategy C: Maintain and Grow Stewardship Program: Maintaining a stewardship program that is sustainable, efficient, effective and accountable is essential to maintaining the conservation value of KNLT’s lands and the overall wildlife corridors.
  • Strategy D: Maintain Involvement with State and Regional Groups: Joining and participating in state and regional working groups, professional organizations and conservation nonprofits is necessary to broaden professional contacts and represent KNLT.

Goal III: Development
Efforts to date have positioned KNLT for major conservation gains in the near term. These gains depend upon critical development work both to ensure adequate and sustained funding, as well as broader recognition and support. KNLT must maintain traditional operational fundraising and land rollovers to fund stewardship and new land purchases.

  • Strategy A: Launch Capital Campaign: Use a tiered campaign targeted at major gifts, mid-level donors and to build a broader base of supports.
  • Strategy B: Outreach and Media Plan: Expand our support base through website, e-mail list and social media and develop KNLT brand.
  • Strategy C: Establish Resource Development Committee: Establishment of this committee will actively support KNLT's development program through the formulation of strategies and activities and will ensure program funding needs are met.

Goal IV: Organizational Strength and Conservation Efforts Statewide
KNLT has evolved into a leading conservation organization in the region with a solid foundation of experience and support. The Land Trust Alliance has recognized KNLT as one of the Southeast’s “excellence” programs. KNLT has been key to efforts to strengthen support for expanded conservation statewide. Continuing to meet our mission depends both on fostering organizational strength and broadening support for conservation across the Commonwealth.

  • Strategy A: Maintain and Strengthen KNLT Organizationally: Our strength comes from staff and board expertise paired with a solid support base. KNLT’s board and staff continually evaluate the needs of the organization to assess areas that KNLT needs to strengthen in order to operate successfully to fulfill our mission.
  • Strategy B: Maintain and Strengthen Conservation Efforts Statewide: KNLT work must continue to focus on broadening and building conservation efforts statewide. A focus on both legislative efforts via partnerships and a willingness to mentor newly forming land trust are essential to meet the pressing conservation needs in the Commonwealth.


2020 Financials:

KNLT 990

Contact Us

email: info@KNLT.org
phone: (859) 986-0744
mail: 433 Chestnut Street, Berea, KY 40403
physical address: 213A Short Street, Berea, KY 40403
We welcome visitors but recommend calling to make sure we aren’t out protecting wildlands.

Protecting, Connecting & Restoring Wildlands

Kentucky Natural Lands Trust • (859) 986-0744 • info@KNLT.org • Copyright © 2023