Friday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, along with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, and their counterparts from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, announced the establishment of the Green River National Wildlife Refuge near the confluence of the Ohio and Green rivers in Henderson, Kentucky.
"Under President Donald Trump's leadership, the Department of the Interior has opened and expanded nearly 1.7 million acres of land, and today we're thrilled to add Green River National Wildlife Refuge to the list," said Secretary Bernhardt. "This is not just great news for our outdoor recreationists, but also for the wildlife that will benefit from this conservation effort. Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's dedication that led to establishing this spectacular refuge in Western Kentucky."
"Kentucky has been blessed with many gorgeous lands and pristine waters. The establishment of the Green River National Wildlife Refuge will preserve our natural resources for future generations of sportsmen and tourists to enjoy," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Like the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, the other federal wildlife refuge I helped establish in Kentucky, this widely popular habitat can draw outdoor enthusiasts and encourage growth in the local economy. I was proud to attract national attention to this Kentucky priority as Senate Majority Leader, bringing together Henderson's leaders and the Trump administration, especially Secretary Bernhardt, to implement my legislation authorizing this refuge. Together, we're protecting these lands for future recreation and enjoyment and fulfilling our responsibility as stewards of Kentucky's natural treasures."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell personally discussed the importance of the Green River National Wildlife Refuge with Secretary Bernhardt and secured a legislative measure directing the Department of the Interior to establish the new refuge in Henderson. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Majority Leader McConnell shepherded his measure to passage and into law.
The refuge was established today with the acquisition of the first tract, a 10-acre parcel donated by the Southern Conservation Corp. The establishment makes it the 568th refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 10 acres are the first of what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to be a 24,000-acre refuge.
The ceremony capped years of planning to open a new refuge in Kentucky. The new refuge is about 130 miles west of Louisville, close to the Kentucky-Indiana border. Along with Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, it is one of only two refuges located fully in Kentucky.
"The Green River National Wildlife Refuge is an important and valuable habitat for fish and wildlife," said Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. "The refuge will welcome anglers, hunters, birders and outdoor enthusiasts who want to enjoy the bounty of Western Kentucky."
The refuge has enjoyed widespread support. At an informational meeting earlier this year, the public turned out to give the then-proposed Green River National Wildlife Refuge an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Local landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies have advocated for its creation.
"Kentucky has long been a sightseeing destination for its natural beauty, from the Appalachian Mountains to our beautiful lakes and forests. This new National Wildlife Refuge in Henderson -- one of only two refuges located fully in Kentucky -- is the product of years of dedication and planning to advance wildlife interests, promote educational awareness and designate an area that outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy. I thank U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bernhardt and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for their commitment to this project, and I'm eager to see the benefits the Green River National Wildlife Refuge will provide regionally for students, visitors and recreationists," said Congressman James Comer (KY-01)
The refuge will also be an outdoor classroom, where youngsters have a chance to wander the forests, marvel at creatures that fly, swim and crawl, and feel a part of the natural world. The refuge helps protect and manage wetlands and bottomland forest. It helps connect natural corridors that allow wildlife to move freely. Migrating waterfowl stop here, too.
"Providing the 10-acre land donation is a unique opportunity for us," noted Southern Conservation Corp. Executive Director Jeff Jones. "We have helped a variety of partners in Kentucky secure important conservation lands for fish and wildlife, environmental education, and public use, but establishing a new national wildlife refuge doesn't happen every day. This donation is special to us for that reason. Hopefully, the refuge will build quickly and provide important conservation and public use benefits."
Over the past 15 years, Southern Conservation Corp. has partnered with the Service on numerous land protection and species conservation efforts in Kentucky.
"This new wildlife refuge is a wonderful opportunity for outdoors men and women in Kentucky, and we appreciate Secretary Bernhardt's leadership and forethought on helping continue the conservation legacy," said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. "Ducks Unlimited has helped conserve and improve habitat since 1937, and just like habitat improvement is built one acre at a time, the conservation legacy is built on the foundation of education. The new Green River National Wildlife Refuge will ensure conservation education starts early with our next generation of conservationists."
"The National Wild Turkey Federation applauds the establishment of this new refuge in western Kentucky as this region of the state provides diverse habitats for fish and wildlife," said National Wild Turkey Federation CEO Becky Humphries. "We look forward to the refuge's future growth as it will also provide outdoor recreation and educational opportunities for generations to come."
"The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) applauds Secretary Bernhardt for supporting the establishment of the Green River National Wildlife Refuge," said Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation President Jeff Crane. "The National Wildlife Refuge System, which allows hunting on more than 370 refuges and fishing on more than 270 refuges, provides crucial access to the outdoors for sportsmen and women. The new refuge will likely offer a variety of hunting and fishing opportunities, and we are grateful that the Department continues to prioritize public access for hunters and anglers."
Green River National Wildlife Refuge is part of a 53,000-acre expanse called a Conservation Partnership Area. Within that boundary, the Service will acquire land for the refuge by buying easements and fee-title ownership from willing sellers.