Thursday, August 31, 2000

Preservationists stake out rural Ky. land

The Associated Press

        LANCASTER, Ky. — A group that helped create nature preserves for wild areas with rare plants and animals now is acquiring rural property that might otherwise be irresistible to developers.

        The Nature Conservancy recently bought and resold about 400 acres next to preserved land along the Kentucky River palisades in Garrard County.

        Ken and Vicki Brooks, who bought one 50-acre tract, promised never to develop it, ensuring a buffer for the nearby Sally Brown Nature Preserve.

        “This pasture, those tobacco patches, they're not harboring endangered species,” Ken Brooks said. “But it's vital to that preserve that they not be intensely developed.”

        Now the Brookses are restoring, and plan to live in, a brick house built in the early 1800s by George Bowman, whose uncle, Col. John Bowman, was the first military governor of Kentucky.

        The purchase of development rights to preserve rural land is increasingly an issue, especially in central Kentucky.

        In Lexington, the government is debating the use of public money for such a purpose. Gov. Paul Patton has suggested it as a worthy use of money from a national tobacco settlement.

        Meanwhile, the private, nonprofit Nature Conservancy is quietly working with people like the Brookses to ensure key farms near the Kentucky River do not become housing tracts.

        Unlike preserves, the “conservation tracts” return to the county tax rolls. Their new owners sign nondevelopment agreements that become a permanent part of the property deed, even if the land is resold.

        New owners might plant trees. Native grasses might replace fescue. There might be a new or restored house — but no subdivisions, cell phone towers or billboards.


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