March 27, 2023

Critical Elk Habitat and Hunting Access Conservation Legislation Vetoed; Veto Override in the Works

Hey Tiny (Kentucky bull elk)
Article Contact: Isabella Mucci,

Why It Matters: The Cumberland Forest area is home to Kentucky’s Elk Management Zone and also provides key habitat for a number of other game and nongame species. Maintaining public access through measures such as conservation easements is crucial to ensuring these landscapes are available for outdoor activities for generations to come. Access, including the availability of lands to hunt and fish, is critical to supporting Kentucky’s outdoor sporting traditions.


  • Kentucky Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and Past President Senator Robin Webb introduced legislation that would direct the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to acquire perpetual conservation easements in Bell, Leslie, and Knox counties. The bill passed the House on March 16, and Governor Beshear vetoed the legislation on March 24. The Caucus is working to override the Governor’s veto.
  • Senate Bill 241 would provide public access to approximately 54,000 acres of land in Kentucky’s Elk Zone.
  • Alongside providing public access, this bill would also limit commercial development and subdivision, while still allowing for additional revenue streams from timber harvests and natural resource mining.

In a prior agreement that provided public access to the area through the Cumberland Forest – Ataya Voluntary Conservation and Access Agreement through conservation easements, an opt-out clause allowed landowners the opportunity to exit the agreement with a 30-day notice. This would allow the landowners to develop their land in a manner that is inconsistent with conservation goals in the area and would also have the potential to limit future public access undermining the intent of the agreement.

Senate Bill 241 would prevent this situation from becoming a reality by removing the exit clause, thereby ensuring that Kentucky’s outdoor sporting traditions are protected by providing continued and fortified public access to the Ataya area, which is home to a key portion of Kentucky’s Elk Management Zone.

Last March, the Caucus and conservation partners discussed the benefits of the Ataya project at the Caucus Luncheon. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds Senator Webb for her leadership on this important access initiative for Kentucky’s sportsmen and women and supports the efforts to override the Governor’s veto.

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