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Bernheim Forest Is Endangered

Posted on November 1, 2019, by Wren Smith CoL

One of Bernheim Forest’s beautiful red maples displays its fall colors.
Photo by Wren Smith

“Loved places become our heart’s geography.”  — Whitney Wurzel former Bernheim Education Director

Many of you know that I have worked at Bernheim Forest for almost 20 years. What you may not know is that Bernheim inspired me as a little girl. It was at Bernheim that I encountered adults who were as passionate about nature as I was. And it was at Bernheim where I discovered that some of those people got paid for learning about nature and sharing what they learned with others. Bernheim truly shaped my destiny and thus my heart’s geography.

As Bernheim’s Interpretive Program manager I’ve had the privilege of witnessing as thousands of visitors respond to Bernheim’s 16,137 acres. Nearly 200,000 visitors flock to Bernheim each year. Hundreds of young people experience Wilson Creek and literally get their feet wet studying wetland ecology on

Bernheim field trips. Families visit Bernheim to relax in a place where natural beauty abounds or to picnic and make new memories. Some seek the peace nature offers in turbulent times. Others visit for the opportunities for thoughtful reflection and the healing power of nature. And even some who never visit consider Bernheim a reservoir of clean air and water and are grateful that Bernheim protects its rich biodiverse natural communities that enrich us all.

Map of Bernheim Forest area
Image from Bernheim staff member

Sadly, Bernheim in its 90th year of “connecting people to nature” is facing two significant threats. First, the most immediate threat is from LG& E that plans to construct a natural gas pipeline through this beloved land. In fact, Bernheim is being sued by LG&E, in an attempt to take Bernheim’s private land through condemnation under the power of eminent domain. Bernheim has made it clear to LG&E that Bernheim is legally and morally obligated to fight this non-conservation use of land protected by conservation easements and deed restrictions.  If LG& E, a for-profit company, succeeds in taking this land, it will set a terrible precedent not only in our state but also throughout the nation. If conservation easements and deed restrictions can’t protect land from private commerce, what chance do we have to protect the places we love? LG&E launched a push back to the public outcry against their proposed land grab that can be found on its website. While it’s informative to look at how LG&E is spinning this issue, be sure to go to Bernheim’s website and look for Bernheim’s response to LG& E.

Kids troll through a creek in Bernheim Forest searching for beetles.
Photo by Wren Smith

Secondly, a proposed Interstate 65/71 regional connector threatens the integrity of our beloved Bernheim, and both threats could cut directly through an area that is home to federally endangered Indiana bats, northern long-eared bats, Kentucky glade cress and other rare and imperiled species. According to Andrew Barry, Bernheim’s director of conservation, “These threats will have an irreversible impact on our wildlife, our clean air and water, our visitors and the quality of life in our community.”

If you’d like to help Bernheim fight these threats and protect this special place, visit https://bernheim.org/forestunderthreat/ and look for the advocacy tool kit. Your voice matters. 


Wren Smith CoL

Wren is a Loretto Co-member and the Interpretive Programs Manager for Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Ky. In 2002, Wren initiated Bernheim's successful Volunteer Naturalists training program. One of Wren’s greatest joys is managing nearly 50 amazing volunteers whose generosity of spirit gives her hope during these dark times.
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