By Lee McClellan
Kentucky Afield Outdoors
A new feature on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources' website at fw.ky.gov is a document detailing the department's accomplishments toward its Strategic Plan over the last two years under the leadership of Commissioner Gregory K. Johnson.
"The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources 'Planning the Future - Strategic Accomplishments' report documents what getting involved and getting inspired with fish and wildlife conservation really means," Johnson said. "The fish and wildlife conservation partnership, here in Kentucky, can stand tall and proud of how we work together to make the Commonwealth a sportsmen and outdoor enthusiast paradise."
Here are some of the accomplished objectives.
The Fisheries Division of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife formed a Critical Species Investigations branch, dealing with species of concern, such as the declining paddlefish or the invasive Asian carp. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is a leader among southern states in combating the Asian carp threat.
The Fisheries Division installed 2,100 habitat structures along 2.5 miles of shoreline at Cave Run Lake and received a $10,000 grant to install more in the lake. The Fees in Lieu program restored six miles of streams over the past two years with plans to restore 70 more stream miles in the coming years.
The highly anticipated Hatchery Creek project, which should become one of the top fly fishing destinations for trout in Kentucky, should be complete by early summer 2016. This project will create a model trout stream with fantastic habitat for more than a mile flowing from Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery into the Cumberland River.
The Fisheries Division produces 7 million fish annually at its two hatcheries, including 18 species and hybrids and logs more than 140,000 miles each year stocking these fish. The division also expanded the Fishing in Neighborhoods urban fishing program to 40 lakes.
Kentucky ranks as the top state for a quality deer hunting experience. It also received two skid steer machines for forest management from the League of Kentucky Sportsman and purchased one other.
Wildlife Division employees also trapped 150 elk for a restoration project in Wisconsin. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will get $450,000 in funding in return for forest management efforts in eastern Kentucky that benefit grouse and other forest species.
The Wildlife Division hired a new veterinarian with emphasis on wildlife disease issues.
The Non-Game Division's work on least terns helped bring the highest number of mating least terns in Kentucky in the last 10 years. The least terns banded and monitored by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife represent 10 percent of the population of these endangered birds.
The Non-Game Division also captured and custom fit a golden eagle from Bernheim Forest in Bullitt and Nelson counties with a tracking transmitter. This is the first golden eagle captured and released since intensive monitoring began in 2012. Workers also recorded the sex and placed an identification band on the rare bird.
The Center for Mollusk Conservation stocked three species of endangered freshwater mussels in the Big South Fork of Cumberland River and received a $400,000 grant to increase mussel populations in Kentucky and surrounding states.
The Law Enforcement Division outfitted each conservation officer with a body camera and instituted an in-house training section. The boating safety staff developed a Boat Safe Kentucky app for smartphones to help the boating public safely enjoy Kentucky waters.
A memorial for fallen law enforcement officers from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife now stands near Salato Wildlife Education Center at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Headquarters in Frankfort.
The Engineering Division improved Wildcat Boat Ramp in the Blood River arm of Kentucky Lake in Calloway County. Engineering staff also improved a boat ramp on the Kentucky River in Owen County and on the Ohio River at Lewisport in Hancock County. In addition, the division built a new ramp on the Cumberland River at Pickneyville in Livingston County and installed two fishing accesses at Kingfisher Lake in Daviess County.
The Information and Education Division hosted nearly 5,000 campers at its three conservation camps in 2014 and instituted a Venture Camp for seventh and eighth graders. This camp teachers advanced outdoors skills such as night fishing and animal tracking as well as shooting crossbows, shotguns and .22 rifles.
The division offered conservation education at 639 schools and 15,262 students completed hunter education courses. The Kentucky National Archery in the Schools program in now in 532 schools across the state involving 110,000 students.
More than 53,000 people visited Salato Wildlife Education Center and the "Kentucky Afield" television show won regional Emmy Awards for the Carp Madness video and for host Tim Farmer. The show has captured 14 Emmy Awards in the last 10 years.
The agency increased license and permit sales for the third straight year with 1.03 million units sold, bucking national trends.
For more information on the Strategic Plan achievements, visit Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's website at fw.ky.gov.
(Editor's note: Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.)