April 9, 2019

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Appalachian Wildlife Center Uses Fire to Improve Habitat

CORBIN, KY The Appalachian Wildlife Center (AWC) has completed the first phase of a comprehensive habitat improvement plan for its 12,000-acre site in Bell County, Kentucky.

In preparation for its June 2021 opening, the AWC launched a master management plan in 2017 to enhance the habitat for desired wildlife species. Phase one of that plan has employed a centuries old land management technique, the prescribed fire. The AWC has used prescribed fire to improve habitat on over 4,000 acres.

The AWC is home to an abundance of wildlife including elk, deer, black bear, bob cats, coyote, numerous small mammals and over 260 species of birds. Since the property was reclaimed after being mined for coal years ago, invasive, non-productive plant species and woody vegetation that offer little benefit to native wildlife have flourished.

According to Appalachian Wildlife Foundation President David Ledford, “The primary objective of our prescribed fire plan is to expand and enhance the quantity and quality of grassland habitat to benefit elk, deer, raptors, songbirds, Bobwhite quail and butterflies. We are using fire to reduce woody vegetation and replace it with higher nutritional valued grasses and forbs”.

Ledford continued, “We have constructed over 22 miles of fire breaks which allow us to use prescribed fire in a safe, controlled manner. The mined lands present challenges. Because there are so many boulders and pot holes obscured by decades of growth, mowing and tilling are not currently options for most of the site. Our prescribed fire promotes the successional growth of desired wildlife friendly plants such as ragweed and milkweed and several varieties of wildflowers.”

“Fire will be a tool we use every year in late winter and early spring, so seeing some smoke in the air will become an annual event at the AWC”, said Ledford.

By its’ third year of operations, the AWC will attract over 850,000 visitors a year. In addition to the abundant wildlife, visitors will enjoy a theater, two museums, a birders hall, an artisans hall, a restaurant, an open-air zoo, bird observatories, a restaurant and numerous foot trails.

The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation is a Corbin, Kentucky based nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization.

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