Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor

Pine Mountain ridgeline


Through the Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor, KNLT is working to connect existing protected areas on Pine Mountain to form a contiguous forested migratory corridor from Virginia to Tennessee, a distance of nearly 125 miles. Large forest tracts are extremely important for the survival of many different plants and animals, as well as, to the health of the forest itself. KNLT partners with state, federal and nonprofit partners to identify those areas most in need of protection, negotiates the purchase of land with willing sellers, and implements a stewardship plan.

The Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor is one of the largest conservation efforts in Kentucky history.

Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor Goals:

  • Protect and manage all biologically significant wildlands.
  • Maintain a continuous forested corridor of protected and sustainably managed land the entire length of the mountain.
  • Engage landowners on the future of the mountain and provide information about sustainable forest management.
  • Encourage and support locally owned, environmentally compatible economic enterprises.


  • Pine Mountain spans more than 125 miles from Tennessee through Kentucky (Whitley, Bell, Harlan, Letcher, and Pike counties) to Virginia and forms the first of the Appalachian ridges, the oldest mountains on the planet.
  • Pine Mountain gets its name from the large stands of pine trees scattered throughout the mountain. Elevations above sea level range from 2,200 ft. to more than 3,200 ft.
  • The mountain is free of merchantable coal, is only crossed by nine roads and is primarily a contiguous forest. It represents a critical refuge and migratory route that runs through a region with extensive resource extraction. The mountain enabled American black bears to recolonize the state. Each year the mountain provides important summer nesting grounds and a migratory route for birds returning from their wintering grounds in Central and South America.
  • There are nearly 100 rare plant and animal species known to live on the mountain, some of which are endemic and occur nowhere else in the world.
  • The mountain supports the mixed mesophytic forest, one of the most diverse temperate zone forest in the world, as well as many other natural communities including hemlock-mixed forests, Appalachian oak forests, pine barrens, mountaintop bogs, mountain streams and caves.
  • The streams that flow off the mountain protect rare fishes, mussels, crayfishes and aquatic plants and are part of the headwaters of the Kentucky, Cumberland and Big Sandy Rivers. These rivers flow into the Ohio and Mississippi rivers forming the forth-largest river system in the world.
  • The mountain is also a key link in the Great Eastern Trail; a 1,800-mile hiking trail from New York to Alabama with lateral links to the Appalachian Trail and other existing trail networks.


The expansive biological treasure that is Pine Mountain faces a number of continual threats. Although free of merchantable coal, limestone quarries are active along the north face of the mountain. Large logging operations along with oil and gas development are clearing and fragmenting the forest. Invasive species continue to spread along the mountain. At the same time a generational shift is underway that threatens to further fragment the ownership of the mountain making conservation efforts much more complex.

Protected Areas

Nearly 40% of Pine Mountain (68,500 acres) is protected by a matrix of different types of conservation lands. KNLT has conserved over 14,900 acres on the mountain; 22% of all the wildlands protected. KNLT has a longstanding partnership with state partners that has resulted in protecting lands that are now part of state nature preserves and state parks.
The following is a list of protected areas – the lead managing agency/organization is listed in parenthesis.

 = KNLT Preserve

 = Preserve KNLT helped to protect

Nature Preserves

National Forest

Private Educational Institutions

State Forests

State Parks

Wildlife Management Areas

Key to Protected Area Type
NF = National Forest
SF = State Forest
SPNP = State Park Nature Preserve
SNP = State Nature Preserve
SRP = State Resort Park
WMA = Wildlife Management Area

Key to Lead Managing Agency/Organization
DCR = Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
DOW = Kentucky Division of Water
KDF = Kentucky Division of Forestry
KDFWR = Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
KNLT = Kentucky Natural Lands Trust
KSP = Kentucky Department of Parks
OKNP = Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves
PMSS = Pine Mountain Settlement School
PMTC = Pine Mountain Trail Conference
TNC = The Nature Conservancy – Kentucky Chapter
TWRA = Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
USFS = USDA Forest Service