Kentucky’s Largest Old-growth Forest

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1995

In the 1920s, Grover Blanton purchased 2,300 acres of forested land on Pine Mountain in Harlan County, Kentucky. It was one of the few ancient forests left in the state, full of huge oaks and other rare trees towering 100 feet or more. These were the same trees seen by American pioneers passing through the Cumberland Gap in the 1700s, and the Blanton family faithfully maintained and protected the forest for another 73 years. In 1995, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust was founded with the aspiration of courting enough donors to acquire the Blanton Forest. Keen to protect what they saw as their regional treasure, local residents by the hundreds contributed to the campaign. Eventually, an anonymous $500,000 gift and another $500,000 from the James Graham Brown Foundation in Louisville raised the group’s kitty to the level needed to buy the land. The first purchase was made in 1995, and a second in 2001, and the 3,000-acre Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve was dedicated. With this success in hand, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust went on to use additional land purchases, easements, and conservation partnerships to protect other acreage surrounding the state’s largest old-growth forest.