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How many acres of grasslands, barrens, savannas, and woodlands?

How many acres of grasslands, barrens, savannas, and woodlands?

Over time, how many acres of LBL will be converted to the Pre-European landscape plan of grasslands, barrens, savannas and woodlands?

Our Land and Resource Management Plan reserves 8,630 acres for oak-grasslands demonstration areas.  The 2004 Land and Resource Management Plan for Land Between The Lakes refers to the Pre-European landscape specifically for the Oak Grasslands Restoration Demonstration Areas, the Elk &Bison Praire-700 acres, and the south Bison Range-180 acres.

Land Between The Lakes is divided into multiple land uses, including administrative areas, recreation and environmental areas, and natural resource areas.  These acres are designated to be managed for a range of ecosystems.  Their location on the landscape was selected based on the ecology of the land.  This includes historical data, such as the presence of remnant tree and plant populations.  Barrens, savannas, and grasslands fall under the natural resource prescription of open lands.  Management of these areas will remain consistent with the direction within its designation.

The prescriptions we follow can be seen visually on our online maps at for the southern half and for our northern half at  A table of the Prescription Area Acres can be found on page 48 of our Area Plan


The physical composition of Land Between The Lakes offers a natural mosaic of vegetation types reflecting the topography, soil components, wildlife habitats, and other characteristics of the land. Currently we manage to maintain and improve existing diversity.

How we manage for wildlife habitats is based on a “pre-European” time frame because this reference to the past reflects a time of natural landscapes with native wildlife, abundant habitats, sustainable plant species, and clear flowing rivers and streams. This time frame came before farming took over our landscape and the iron industry depleted our forests. Both of these man-made activities changed the natural order at Land Between The Lakes.  The pre-European period represents a period of high ecosystem diversity.

This pre-European benchmark allowed decision makers to compare our Area Plan alternatives to finalize the land allocation prescriptions described on page 48 in our Area Plan. It also gave us opportunities to restore some of the landscape that the first pioneers might have encountered in our region.  Managing for a period of high diversity is a way to ensure that the most species persist, supporting a natural system that will be resilient to changes in the environment.


  • Definition Grasslands: Areas on which vegetation is dominated by grasses, grass-like plants, forbs/wildflowers, and/or cryptogams like mosses, lichens, and ferns.
  • Definition Open Lands: Land permanently maintained in a non-forested condition but not developed
  • Planned Acreage:
    • Open Lands 5,300
    • Utility Corridors 760
  • Discussion: Areas identified in our Final Environmental Impact Statement included currently maintained open lands, ecological restoration areas, old fields, hayfields, and utility and road rights-of-way.
    • Openlands are managed to provide a range of habitat to support a variety of wildlife. These areas include native grasses and forbs and support numerous wildlife, including small mammals, birds, game species such as deer, and pollinator species.
    • We are in the process of transitioning our riparian corridors into native grasses. Riparian corridors serve as administrative zones applied to both sides of a stream or alongside a pond, lake, wetland, seep, or spring. The total acreage is unknown at this point.

Barrens/Big Barrens Region of Kentucky and Tennessee

  • Definition Big Barrens Region of Kentucky and Tennessee: Prairie lands maintained through fire by Native Americans.
    • Discussion: In historical research papers, “barrens” has been used to refer to “prairie” in the region as in The Big Barrens Region of Kentucky and Tennessee
      • The Big Barrens Region of Kentucky and Tennessee: Further Observations and Considerations by Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C. Baskin ,and Edward W. Chester, September 1994
      • Discussion: We manage the Elk & Bison Prairie and the South Bison Range to provide historic native habitats for elk and bison herds. The Elk & Bison Prairie serves as a restoration of the “barrens” of Kentucky while the South Bison Range offers “pasture land” to support the Tennessee herd.
    • Planned Acreage: 700 acre Elk & Bison Prairie and 180 acre South Bison Range
Cemetery Ridge Oak Grassland Area after a prescribed fire.
Cemetery Ridge Oak Grassland Area after a prescribed fire.


Definition: Savannas are grasslands interspersed with open-grown scattered trees, groupings of trees of various age, and shrubs.

  • Planned Acreage: 8,630 acres distributed into two areas – north and south
  • Why: Oak-grasslands /oak-savannas were once a common vegetation type in the past which it is now believed to be “one of the rarest plant communities on earth”
    • “The diversity of plants in an oak savanna is higher than either a prairie or woodland, because it has species representing all three categories of plants: prairie plants, savanna plants, and woodland plants. ”
    • The disappearance of a plant community equates to the disappearance of wildlife habitats. Prairie birds and mammals are in decline like the Bob White Quail once native to Land Between The Lakes.
  • Discussion: Land Between the Lakes is home to two oak-grassland restoration demonstration areas. The demonstration areas create conditions over a large contiguous landscape to demonstrate the feasibility of ecological restoration of an oak-grassland forest and the benefits it can provide to native wildlife and public recreation.
    • Historical accounts and ecological research indicates these areas had an open oak canopy and understory dominated by grasses created and maintained through the use fire by the American Indians.
    • The demonstration areas totals 8,630 About 3,000 acres are in the north unit in Kentucky and about 5,000 in the south unit in Tennessee.
    • Treatments focus on the tree thinning and prescribed fire. Fire effects monitoring and research will continue throughout the restoration effort.
    • “Core” areas adjacent to the demonstration areas serve as controls to help gauge the effectiveness of the restoration.
  • Demonstration project update:
Woodlands Area
                           Woodlands Area near Jenny Ridge


  • Definition from Area Plan: Most often “woodlands” in our Area Plan refers to a more open canopy forest on page 313
    • “A plant community in which trees are often small, characteristically with a greater proportion of their total height being crown more so than clear bole (trunk), and having trees spaced far enough apart that the canopies of adjacent trees usually do not touch and with the ground vegetation being mostly herbaceous, commonly grass.”
  • Why: A vegetation management practice that provides for oak-hickory forest health, includes mix of open and closed canopy stands. Oak-hickory trees and short-leaf pines require sunlight on the forest floor to best survive through natural regeneration. Their seedlings can only compete with other trees and vegetation if they have access to sunlight. Oak-hickory forest also depends on fire to remove competition and open the forest floor to sunlight.
  • Discussion: Over 82% of Land Between The Lakes’ land base is forest cover, primarily mature forest dominated by oak and hickory tree species. General forest areas provide for a wide range of uses and conditions.
    • In 1991 Land Between The Lakes was designated an International Biosphere Reserve as part of the Man and the Biosphere Reserve program of the United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Mammoth Cave National Park also hold this designation.
    • Our 41,800 acres of Core is minimally managed and disturbed areas resulting in a closed canopy forest.

We manage the natural resources at Land Between The Lakes National Recreation to best serve our mission of multiple use recreation area, environmental education, wild life habitats and vegetation management, in addition to regional economic development. With over 1.5 million visitors, Land Between The Lakes serves as the number One attraction in Kentucky.

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