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Shaker Village Continues Conservation Legacy with help from NRCS

Submitted by Greta Steverson, acting Public Affairs Specialist and Brandon Campbell, Natural Resources Planner

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill is located in Mercer County, Kentucky.  Recognized as the largest National Historic Landmark in the state, the site covers over 3,000 acres and is home to 34 Shaker House 1original Shaker structures plus the largest collection of privately owned 19th century buildings.  Shaker Village has dedicated its efforts over the years to re-establishing unproductive pasture land back to the native prairie grasslands that once dominated Kentucky’s landscape.  In their conservation quest, the Village has worked closely with the Kentucky USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife (KDFW) and the Mercer County Kentucky Conservation District to bring their efforts to fruition. 

 

They began those efforts on a small scale by utilizing the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through USDA-NRCS to establish 75 acres of conservation cover that included native warm season grasses, forbs and wildflowers.  Pleased with the success of that area, Shaker Village along with NRCS, then enlisted the help of the KDFW and the local conservation district to apply for a Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) grant covering 500 acres.  Approval of that grant allowed for the implementation of more native warm season grasses as well as the implementation of a practice known as old field regeneration. Species established in these areas included Indiangrass, big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass, partridge pea, Illinois bundle Wildflower fieldflower, black-eyed Susan and purple coneflowers. Grasses thrived and wildlife increased so NRCS assisted once again by working with the Village to utilize both the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to further convert and establish another 500 acres.  Additional native grasses species planted this time included side oats grama, Virginia wild rye and another 7-9 different species of forbs.

Success has been measured not only by the visual sight of tall, lush native prairie grass cover, but most importantly by the increase in pollinators, insects, small mammals and grassland birds-- especially the Northern Bobwhite quail.  Before conversion of the unproductive land, Shaker Village was home to only 4 coveys of quail but now boasts over 70 coveys on the property.  KDFW has reported that with these numbers, Shaker Village has the largest population of Northern Bobwhite quail in the state of Kentucky. They have also seen an increase in other bird numbers including Henslow’s sparrow, Dickcissels, Blue Grosbeaks and Grasshopper sparrows. Neighboring landowners share that their properties have flourished as well as a result of the Village’s efforts with new bird populations. To date, Shaker Village has converted over 1,200 acres back into natural habitat.  In recognition of this accomplishment, the EQIP Program established a special Grassland Bird Initiative for Mercer County, enticing other landowners to follow suit.Shaker fence

 

Shaker Village continues to pursue their legacy of conserving the land.  They are currently partnering with KY-NRCS, KDFW, the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee to develop and submit a Regional Conservation Partner Program (RCPP) proposal.  If approved, it will offer assistance on a regional scale to help landowners establish and protect native grasslands and the wildlife that use them for habitat.

 

For more information on NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other conservation programs, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/farmbill/?cid=stelprdb1244022