When the state of Kentucky pays to conserve natural areas, it tries to protect that land forever.
Now for first time in nearly 30 years, the power of those protections could be tested in the fight over the future of Bernheim Forest’s Cedar Grove wildlife corridor, according to state environmental advocates.
In Louisville Gas and Electric’s pursuit to build a natural gas pipeline through Bernheim Forest, the private utility is using eminent domain to try and seize land from Bernheim, a private nonprofit. But LG&E isn’t just suing Bernheim and other holdout landowners.
It also filed suit in September against a state board, seeking to break the conservation easement on Bernheim property. The easement restricts development, like pipelines, and also requires Bernheim to manage the habitat for imperiled species.
Kentucky environmentalists say it is the first time a utility has attempted to overturn a conservation easement held by the state, and it could result in weakening protections for natural areas in the rest of the state.
“There’s never been an effort to terminate one of those easements,” said Don Dott, president of the Kentucky Land Trusts Coalition. “So this is new and this is potentially a very bad precedent.”
Representatives of …