Could I-69 bring a National Wildlife Refuge to Henderson?

There’s a lot of talk going around on the local, state, and national level of the potential of construction on Interstate 69. While there has been a lot of focus on how the new road route could impact Henderson, there is another big picture and big story to tell that could make Henderson County a candidate for a national wildlife refuge…


Let me introduce you to the Proposal for the Green River National Wildlife Refuge.


What is a wildlife refuge exactly?

A national wildlife refuge is a place that has been set aside specifically for maintaining wildlife and their habitats, so future generations can enjoy wildlife and the benefits they bring to our life.


What does the National Wildlife Refuge Proposal have to do with the construction of I-69?

When the government disrupts wildlife habitat to build major roads and highways, there are mitigation laws that also go in effect. So, with the construction of I-69, the government will have to mitigate an amount of land that is more hospitable for wildlife to offset for the destruction of wildlife habitat caused by building a new interstate in our area.


What is the Green River National Wildlife Refuge Proposal?

The proposal originated in an effort to restore valuable bottomland hardwood and other wildlife habitats that are important to migratory waterfowl and other fish and wildlife.

Mike Morton of Robards, Kentucky, an active conservationist and supporter of the proposal, has spent over 34 years working for the state of Kentucky. Mike says, “About 90% of natural wetlands are gone in Kentucky,” which is why it is so important to preserve what is left.

This proposal would protect species and habitats native to the wetland land area in northern Henderson County, from the Horseshoe bend east of the twin bridges to the area of land that is between the Ohio River and the Green River. Since this area floods often, it is a prime location for waterfowl to breed and live.


When was the proposal formed?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first published the proposal for the Green River National Wildlife Refuge in June of 2001. This location had been identified as the #1 priority of acquisition by Kentucky in 1978, 1999 and 2001.  While the proposal was well-received and had strong support, no action has yet been taken.

A second or Supplemental Environmental Assessment was published in 2010 about the same project.  But mitigation laws requiring preservation lands must also be located within the same waterway, this proposal for the establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge may finally have the springboard it needs to take action.

Image by Chuck Summers

Image by Chuck Summers

What kind of resources would a wildlife refuge of this kind provide?

Along with land preservation, the refuge could also be a prime spot for outdoor recreational activities such as waterfowl hunting, fishing, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching, and education about conservation practices.

In a version of the bill that was first introduced to Congress in 2002, the text also reads that the purpose of the refuge is to provide:

(1) habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl;

(2) habitat for non-game land birds;

(3) habitats for a natural diversity of fish and wildlife;

(4) nesting habitat for wood ducks and other locally nesting migratory waterfowl;

(5) high-quality hunting and sport fishing opportunities; and

(6) opportunities for environmental education, interpretation, and wildlife-oriented recreation.

Not to mention the other number of species such as non-game neo-tropical migratory birds, bald eagles, game species and several species of mussel listed as endangered or threatened, and many other species of animals native to the wetland and bottomland hardwood forest.


What kind of impact would a National Wildlife Refuge have on Henderson, Kentucky?

More than 41 million people visit National Wildlife Refuges each year, and their spending generates almost $1.7 billion in sales and close to 27,000 jobs for regional economies according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

A National Wildlife Refuge in Henderson would add to Kentucky’s growing tourism industry, which generated $14.5 billion in economic impact during 2016, an increase of over five percent from $13.7 billion in 2015. Kentucky’s tourism industry generated  $63,550,037.00 in direct tourist spending in Henderson County in 2016.


What can the public do to participate?

  1. Click here to sign an online petition to support the National Wildlife Proposal

  1. Contact the local officials: Click to print a letter to send to your local politician by clicking one of the below links. Be sure to include your signature and return address.

US Senator, Mitch McConnell

US Senator, Rand Paul

US Representative, James Comer

State Senator, Dorsey Ridley

State Representative, Robby Mills

State Representative, Suzanne Miles

County Judge Executive, Brad Schneider

Local I-69 Coordinator, Gary Valentine



Did you enjoy this article? Click this link to sign up to receive our Monday E-Newsletter!