FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 20, 2017) — The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources recently recognized several landowners, businesses and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for wildlife habitat restoration efforts.
“Each year, we honor landowners who implement wildlife-friendly practices on their lands in each of the five wildlife districts across Kentucky,” said Dan Figert, assistant director of the Wildlife Division of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We also honor business partners who work with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife on habitat improvements or public access to their lands. We also select a NRCS Conservationist of the Year. ”
Landowner of the Year: Mike Zimmer
Mike Zimmer is head coach of the NFL Minnesota Vikings football team and former defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. His wildlife-friendly land management is a good example for other Kentuckians. Zimmer converted a 160-acre cattle farm in Kenton County into a showpiece property managed for deer, rabbits and quail. Zimmer and land manager Jeff Bunch converted 130 acres of fescue into more wildlife friendly vegetation, planted 60 acres of native warm season grasses, installed 5 acres of perennial and 5 acres of rotational food plots. Zimmer also eradicated invasive honeysuckle and works to ensure it does not return. He also works with neighboring landowners by providing guidance and assistance with implementing these practices on their farms.
Purchase Region Landowner of the Year: Charlie Wilkins
Wilkins installed 150 acres of native warm season grasses as part of the Conservation Reserve Program on 200 acres in Graves County. He also integrated 3,000 feet of streamside borders on both sides of Morris Creek, which runs through is property. Wilkins selectively harvested 20 acres of timber to improve wildlife habitat and plants three to five wildlife food plots per year. He also maintains three ponds for fishing.
Green River Region Landowner of the Year: Gary Boswell
Boswell owns an active 640-acre row crop farm in Hancock County managed for ducks, quail and other wildlife. He is among the first in his county to implement no-till planting to save precious topsoil. Boswell installed 201 acres of pollinator habitat as well as filter strips, field borders for quail and 6 acres of shallow water for the benefit of waterfowl and other wildlife.
Northeast Region Landowner of the Year: Dr. Herb Loyd
Loyd owns a 1,136-acre Christmas tree farm in Fleming County. He recently completed 160 acres of forest stand improvement, established native warm season grasses around crop fields and cut 74 acres of patch clear cuts to create early successional habitat for birds such as ruffed grouse. Loyd’s plans call for forest improvements on an additional 112 acres as well as another 45 acres of patch clear cuts.
Southeast Region Landowners of the Year: Jim and Sara Sproles
The couple own 163 acres in three tracts in Adair County. They established 66 acres of native warm season grasses and forbs, eight acres of pollinator habitat, 11 acres of forest stand improvement and 111 acres of prescribed burning to improve vegetation stands for wildlife.
Kentucky Business Conservation Partner of the Year: Kentucky River Properties
Since 2015, Kentucky River Properties enrolled 86,124 acres for elk hunting access through Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s Voucher Cooperator Program. Their properties lie in nine tracts ranging from 1,234 acres to 51,173 acres in Harlan, Leslie, Knott and Perry counties. Through this program, Kentucky River Properties provided opportunity for 400 elk hunters; 63 hunters harvested elk in 2015 and 2016. The company is a vital partner in elk trapping efforts to meet demands of elk restoration efforts.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservationist of the Year: Tony Burnett
Since 2015, Burnett’s work unit funded 31 contracts under the Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative with plans for 595 acres of forest stand improvements, more than 225 acres of invasive species eradication, 22 acres of patch clear cuts to create early successional habitat, 19 ephemeral pools and a 2.6-acre shallow water area for use by waterfowl and other wildlife. Burnett’s work through the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program brought an additional 111 acres of patch clear cuts, 33 acres of invasive species eradication, 20 acres of native tree and shrub establishment as well as the installation of 57 acres of native warm season grasses and pollinators. The Conservation Stewardship Program for forestlands enrolled 1,465 acres into wildlife enhancement practices such as establishing pollinators and shrubs and manipulation of the forest to provide cover for wildlife. He also oversaw improvements to water quality and wildlife health in his role in the Triplett Creek Restoration Project.