The Green River is the most biologically diverse branch of the Ohio River system. The greatest aquatic diversity occurs in a 100-mile section of unhindered river that flows from the Green River reservoir dam through Mammoth Cave National Park (the world’s longest and most diverse cave system) in southcentral Kentucky. This section of the Green River watershed includes 917,197 acres in the counties of Adair, Barren, Edmonson, Green, Hart, Metcalfe, Russell and Taylor. Data indicate that agricultural runoff contributes high levels of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and pathogens to the Green River and Mammoth Cave systems. There are currently seven species listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Green River system. In addition, the project area also includes several ecosystems recognized as endangered ecosystems of the United States, including native prairies, hardwood savannahs, canebrakes and old-growth deciduous forest.
On Aug. 29, 2001, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Commonwealth of Kentucky agreed to implement a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) on the above-referenced section of the Green River to restore up to 100,000 acres. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) is a contributor, offering wildlife biologists and cost-shared positions with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to assist landowners and promote the program to enhance participation in CREP. The Kentucky Division of Conservation was designated as the state administrative contact agency for Green River CREP and distributes state cost share and incentive payments to landowners. Western Kentucky University plans and implements the water quality and biological monitoring for the program. Mammoth Cave National Park is also involved in the monitoring of the Green River and groundwater in the karst areas of the Green River CREP. The Kentucky Chapter of the Nature Conservancy is also a contributor, offering permanent easements to landowners in select counties in addition to CREP contracts and offering public relations and BMP implementation assistance.
In late 2006, a proposal for an amendment to the Green River CREP was submitted to USDA. This proposal sought to expand the CREP region approximately 30 river miles to include environmentally significant watersheds downstream of the original project area and to utilize the community-based approach to more effectively protect locally unique resources and provide better service to the local landowners. The proposed addition included all or parts of Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Grayson, Logan, Simpson and Warren counties.
Why is CREP different than other programs?
CREP is an enhanced version of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which has been the federal government's largest and most comprehensive private lands environmental improvement program. Because the section of the Green River has been identified as such a special place, partner agencies felt that the enhanced version of CRP would be ideal for this area. The "enhancement" is primarily financial thus directly benefiting the producer/landowner in CREP areas. This is a voluntary "set aside" program offering enhanced rental rates, cost share, and incentive payments that exceed that of CRP.
Green River CREP Success
As of the fall of 2009, all 100,000 acres allotted for this program have been utilized. The success of the Green River CREP in the small, rural area of south central Kentucky truly represents what this program was designed to do. The partnering agencies worked hard to identify gaps in the program and then design an amendment that fit the local geography and land use to embody the intent of CREP. For this task, the Kentucky Green River CREP partnership received the prestigious 2007 Two Chief's Partnership Award. This award recognized the outstanding partnership with forest conservation work among conservation districts, state foresters, the United States Forestry Service and NRCS.
If you would like more information on the Green River CREP, contact your local USDA NRCS Service Center or contact Jay Nelson at:
Jay Nelson, Coordinator
Kentucky Division of Conservation
P.O. Box 730
Edmonton, KY 42129
Office phone: 270-432-3191, ext. 107
Mobile phone: 270-590-1825