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Kentucky’s forests protect water quality, provide recreational opportunities and are one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions in the world.


89% of Kentucky’s forestland is owned by private landowners in small plots averaging 26 acres.


47% of Kentucky is forested— 11.9 million acres.


On average Kentucky loses about one square mile per week of forest to other uses such as roads, mining and urban development.


Timber is estimated to generate $4.5 billion annually in economic impacts in the state.

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The Central Appalachian forest is globally significant, hosting some of the highest environmental diversity in North America. Ferns, mushrooms, migrating songbirds and a wide range of tree species all add up to create a forest ecosystem that is unique in its complex beauty and resources. This diversity of life is paralleled by a wide assortment of threats including rapid conversion of forests to non-forest uses, increasing non-native invasive species and overall shifts in the distribution and growing ranges of these species due to climate change and other factors.


Over time, land use changes, over-extraction and mismanagement have led to some of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered species in the United States, as well as a decline in the overall health and viability of the forest.


treesMost of the Central Appalachian forest is distinguished as being part of the Cumberland plateau — an area of rolling steep mountains deeply dissected by valleys and numerous streams, creeks and springs. The forests of this area are known as mixed mesophytic — referring to the wide range of tree species that grow in this middle zone. Forest communities in this region often support more than 30 canopy tree species at a single site. In all, the mixed mesophytic forest harbors 80 woody species in its canopy and understory. It is thought that this area is actually the seedbed that reseeded the whole continent after the last ice age. 


streamCentral Appalachia’s rivers, streams and springs provide important habitat for snails,  mussels, darters and fresh water fish. These water bodies often adjoin forestland forming areas known as riparian forests. These areas require special appreciation and protection, as they filter pollutants and debris from our water and reduce sedimentation and erosion of our waterways. The shade provided from the riparian forest tree canopy regulates stream temperature, allowing numerous fish, mussels and salamanders to thrive in these areas. See the Kentucky Forest Landowner's Handbook for more information about how to protect riparian areas.