Last week, Lori Schroeder, a researcher at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Ky., discovered a very rare Hidden Springsnail (fontigens cryptica), which only has been found five other places in the world and marks the first time it has wormed its way into Kentucky.
The cave species is translucent white and measures under 2 millimeters.
And last month, researchers also unearthed the Bluff Vertigo snail (vertigo meramecensis), another rare species found in fewer than 30 locations throughout world.
These discoveries seem to help Bernheim’s case against the proposed LG&E gas pipeline that would run through its recently acquired properties and other parts of Bullitt County. There also has been talk of an Interstate 65/71 regional connector that would also cut through the privately owned forest.
“Disrupting this healthy, intact forest with development could destroy not only the Hidden Springsnail’s habitat, but that of hundreds of plant and wildlife species that depend on this land for survival,” said Andrew Berry, Bernheim’s director of conservation, in a news release.
“We are not opposed to development. We are opposed to projects that impact one of the last remaining wilderness tracts in central Kentucky. We are asking that alternate routes be used for these proposed projects.”
Bernheim sits on 16,137 acres of land and attracts more than 350,000 people a year. Its latest public art exhibition — featuring the “Forest Giants” made by world-renowned artist Thomas Dambo — has garnered local, regional and national attention.
It’s also home to several rare and threatened species, including federally endangered Indiana bats, northern long-eared bats and Kentucky glade cress.
“The cave systems, springs, streams, mature forests, knobs and rock outcroppings on which these species depend for survival would have to be cleared or disturbed to make way for the proposed projects,” Berry added.
In May, several Bullitt County residents also opposed to the 12-mile pipeline met at the county’s courthouse to voice their dissent. So far, LG&E has secured 85 percent of the easements for the project, as well as approval by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
Berry noted that the land through which the proposed LG&E pipeline would cut is protected by conservation easements and deed restrictions that prohibit destruction of natural resources, and Bernheim’s management and board of trustees remain opposed to the project.
In a recent statement released by LG&E, the company said that while the route for the final pipeline has been determined, it is possible some changes could be added.