Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Rare clover may live here

Potential preserve may be habitat of protected plant

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        BURLINGTON — A 100-acre tract of Boone County land that the state has approved as a potential nature preserve may be home to a federally protected plant.

        The land, which includes a portion of Gunpowder Creek, has been approved for $300,000 in state land preservation funds and is a possible habitat for the rare running buffalo clover. Interim director Barry Dalton said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the plant an endangered species.

        “All of the buffalo clover in the world is found in the Tristate,” Mr. Dalton said. “It's been found close to Gunpowder Creek.”

        The land is along the creek, about halfway between a YMCA camp on Camp Ernst Road and Camp Michaels, a Boy Scout facility near Hathaway Road.

        Northern Kentucky University's Environmental Resource Management Center in Highland Heights has been conducting an aerial invento ry of Boone County fauna since last fall. Included is a portion along Gunpowder Creek near Burlington, where the running buffalo clover might be.

        Nobody yet knows whether there is any running buffalo clover along Gunpowder

        Creek because the perennial plant doesn't pop up until June and won't show its 1-inch wide white blossoms until July or August.

        But Mr. Dalton said there's good reason to believe the clover is present, having clung as seeds on the hides of the buffalo that once roamed the Tristate.

        It has been found at the Dinsmore Woods State Nature Preserve west of Burlington, and some was found last year along Gum Branch Creek near Big Bone Lick State Park.

        Mr. Dalton said the county survey should be done by the end of this year.

        Gunpowder Creek is the largest watershed in Boone County — and one of the largest watersheds in all of Northern Kentucky. It is second only to the Licking River.

        Boone County Fiscal Court has been talking about purchasing the 100 acres since January.

        “Gunpowder Creek has been identified as one our most treasured watersheds,” Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore said.

        Mr. Dalton said the property was considered a mature forest, with beech, sugar maple, ash, oak and buckeye trees at least 150 years old.

        Last week, the board of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund granted the county up to $300,000 to help buy the land. Board member Hugh Archer, who is also commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources in Frankfort, said the money is part of a nearly $4 million fund financed by environmental fines, a state tax on unmined minerals and sales of some personalized license plates.

        But the deal may never happen. Assistant County Administrator John Stanton said the county and the property owner are far apart on a purchase price.

        If it does, Mr. Moore said a network of hiking and horseback riding trails linking the YMCA and Camp Michaels sites is a distant possibility. He said the sticking point is negotiating with up to 20 more property owners, a process he said has not begun.

        “It would be preserved for nature,” Mr. Moore said of the plan. “(The sites) are not flat, open areas where you'd put fields.”


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