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Gov. Bevin, Congressman Rogers announce development of Appalachian Wildlife Center in Bell County

Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers announced Nov. 1 that the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) has approved a $12.5 million grant for the development of the Appalachian Wildlife Center in Bell County, Ky. The money will fund the wildlife center that, when opened to the public in 2019, would contain a museum of natural and regional history, a theater, a hall dedicated to the natural history of elk, bird watching, an astronomy pavilion and a 15-mile, self-guided scenic loop road for wildlife viewing.

The center will be located on 19 square miles along the Cumberland River and is expected to attract 638,000 visitors annually by the fifth year of operation. The center is projected to generate more than $1 billion in regional economic activity over the first 10 
years of operation. Gov. Bevin, who has called the pilot program a tremendous one-time opportunity for leaders in Appalachian counties to help grow a future for Kentuckians in the region, said he is excited by its vision.

“This pilot program provides an exciting opportunity for our leaders in Appalachian counties,” said Gov. Bevin. “By leveraging some of Kentucky's greatest competitive advantages — magnificent natural beauty, abundant wildlife and a strong sense of history and place — this program will help to create future opportunities for Kentuckians across the region.” 

U.S. Rep. Rogers, Chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, who worked to secure the funds through the FY 2016 
Omnibus appropriations bill, has said the AML pilot project will be a double win for Eastern Kentucky by reclaiming and redeveloping abandoned mine land to spur economic development where it's needed the most.

“The new wildlife center will highlight the natural beauty of our region and provide up-close tours of the thriving wildlife now 
repopulating our mountains,” Congressman Rogers said. “It will also promote environmental education and economic development in the heart of the coalfields."

The Center is projected to cost $24 million, and will be developed over a five-year period. Revenues from admission fees and on-site spending are projected to make it financially self-sustaining in the second year of operation, while generating funding for scholarship, research and land conservation programs.

While fundraising efforts are ongoing, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced that the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation was awarded a $1.8 million grant under the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative. The money will be used to install water infrastructure at the future site of the wildlife center. The AML Pilot project is a joint effort by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the Department for Local Government, the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and the Energy and Environment Cabinet, Division of Abandoned Mine Lands. David L. Ledford, Chief Executive Officer of the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, said the ambitious project will need additional funding, through donations from individuals, foundations and businesses.

“The Center will lead the way in developing and demonstrating ecological restoration and sustainable land uses for coal mines 
throughout Central Appalachia,” Ledford said. “The visitors it attracts will demonstrate the value of ecotourism and begin to 
create that new economic paradigm in Kentucky's elk country.” The pilot program is part of $90 million in funds that has been set aside for one-time grants to Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to return coal sites to productive uses that will bring new jobs to replace the thousands lost during the downturn of the industry. 

​Student nominations sought for EcoART contest

If you know Kentucky high school students who enjoy creating art and care about the environment, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP) is looking for them.

The DEP is soliciting nominations for the 2016–17 EcoART Contest. The contest, which is in its eighth year, provides an opportunity for students to gain statewide recognition for their artwork as it relates to Kentucky’s environment. Used as a tool for environmental education, art supports DEP’s mission to protect and conserve Kentucky’s environment.

Multiple awards will be presented to eligible Kentucky high school students who create art that addresses at least one of the themes that emphasize Kentucky’s environment:

Air – Keeping the air we breathe clean and safe. 

Water - Protecting our precious water supply by preventing pollutants from entering the waterways and by conserving this 
natural resource. 

Land and natural habitats – Respecting the state’s wildlife and its diverse habitat and ensuring clean soil for our food supply. 

Our natural resources are critical to a healthy environment. The DEP is asking Kentucky high school students to help us convey this important message to the public.

Student artists may create art in several media types including, drawing/painting/print, mixed media, sculpture/pottery and 
photography, and digital artwork. A winner for each submitted art media type and each environmental theme will be awarded.

Contest nominations are being accepted until midnight Feb. 17, 2017. All nominations must be sent via email only to envhelp@ky.gov. A digital picture of each artwork nomination must accompany each form submitted. Eligible students include all students enrolled in Kentucky public and private high schools or homeschooled for the 2016–17 academic year. Winners will be notified in March, and winning entries will be displayed in the DEP Office Building in Frankfort.

For more information about the EcoART Contest and to access a nomination form, visit http://dca.ky.gov/LGGS/Pages/ecoart.aspx​ or call the Division of Compliance Assistance at 502.564.0323.​

​​Find rare plants​

Did you know the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission keeps a database of rare Kentucky plants? Learn about them here: http://eppcapp.ky.gov/nprar​eplants/​​​