Happy World Oceans Day, Kentucky! Now, if only we could bury our toes in the sand.
Indeed, the ocean seems very far away from the Bluegrass State (around 900 miles, to be exact). But we are more connected than you think.
Specifically, the Mississippi River connects Kentucky with the ocean as it passes through the state during a 2,300-mile journey through America’s heartland before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.
Unfortunately, in addition to water, the Mississippi delivers nutrients and polluted runoff from Kentucky (and 30 other states) to the Gulf. Each year, this results in a dead zone—an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and marine life.
Dead zones tend to occur in the summer and fluctuate in size. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 2015 Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone was 6,474 square miles. It is a phenomenon that affects the entire nation since the region supplies 72% shrimp, 66% of oysters and 16% of commercial fish harvested within the United States.
The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky works to reverse these trends by investing time and resources in improving river health around the state:
- Land Protection Acquire property or conservation easements in order safeguard or restore a buffer of trees and other vegetation critical to storing and filtering water making its way into local waterways. .
- Natural Flow Work with the Army Corps of Engineers to release water reservoirs in ways that mimic natural flows in order to support the needs of humans and wildlife.
- Soil Health Partner with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to promote the value healthy soils and reduced erosion in order to benefit crops and reduce and agricultural runoff into waterways.
- Community Engagement Work with NRCS to administer the Wetlands Reserve Program, a voluntary program that offers incentives to landowners for protecting, restoring and enhancing healthy wetlands on their property.
So, even if you reside in Kentucky—far from the ocean—take a minute today to imagine the smell of saltwater, the sound of crashing waves and the sight of dolphins swimming just past the surf. All of it depends upon land-based actions of you and me!
Help The Nature Conservancy protect our oceans by supporting our efforts to conserve Kentucky’s rivers. We are all more connected than we think!