State establishes Abbey of Gethsemani Registered Natural Area

Abbey of Gethsemani.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves has recognized the Abbey of Gethsemani’s historic stewardship of more than 1,500 acres of field and forest in Nelson County by establishing the Abbey of Gethsemani Registered Natural Area.

The Natural Areas Registry is a voluntary, non-regulatory program designed to provide recognition for sound ecological stewardship and awareness of the ecological significance of a landowner’s property. Under the terms of the registry agreement, the landowner does not relinquish any rights to the property and simply agrees to protect it to the best of their ability.

“The Abbey of Gethsemani welcomes the opportunity to become a registered natural area as a way of continuing and improving its stewardship of its land, much of which it has held for over 170 years,” said Abbot Elias Dietz. “The most unspoiled parts of the property are grasslands and glades which will benefit from the expertise provided by the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves. We look forward to collaborating with the state of Kentucky in its efforts to preserve and enhance such natural areas.”

To be eligible for registration, a property must contain habitat for plants or animals that are rare or have a declining population in Kentucky, or that contain an outstanding example of a Kentucky ecological community, such as an old growth forest, wetland, glade or prairie.

KNP botanist Devin Rodgers said the abbey supports an area of high-quality, rocky grasslands called limestone slope glades, a rare natural occurrence in Kentucky.

“Rocky soils of these glades promote island-like openings with a rich diversity of native grasses, sedges, and wildflowers, many of which are absent in adjacent forests,” Rodgers said. “These glades contain rare, charismatic grassland species like a large and robust population of prairie clover, white prairie clover, Eggleston’s violet, Crawe’s sedge, and cutleaf prairie dock.”

Rodgers said glades at the abbey are unique due to their diversity of native grassland species, few invasive species, close spatial proximity, dense clustering of a dozen high-quality openings, and their ownership by a conservation-minded landowner.

KNP and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) will work together on the registered natural area site to enhance the glades. Natural Resource Conservation Service “Farm Bill” programs that are designed to assist conservation practices on private properties will likely be utilized.

“Part of the KNP’s mandate is to promote the scientific and spiritual values of our unpolluted and unspoiled environment, and I can’t think of a better place than Gethsemani to further those goals,” said Executive Director Zeb Weese.

For more information on programs of the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, including the Kentucky Natural Areas Registry, please go to https://eec.ky.gov/Nature-Preserves/.