Bernheim Research Forest and Arboretum is adding nearly 1,000 acres to its property, in the biggest land acquisition in the site’s 89-year history. Bernheim’s staff, trustees and community leaders announced the news Tuesday.

The 954-acre plot of land is being sold to Bernheim by the Simon Family, who owns Publishers Press in Shepherdsville. Bernheim executive director Mark Wourms said the land has been well-maintained over the years, and has a number of interesting ecological features. He said the land has historically been called “Big Level.”

Bernheim Forest

“The knob that it sits on isn’t a cone, it’s actually more of a plateau-type shape,” Wourms said. “And so it’s got some level areas up there, which make it ideal for a wetland or two and the headwaters of some streams.”

The land contains the headwaters of three streams, he added, which means there are three more streams Bernheim will be able to protect. The land is also habitat for the endangered Indiana Bat, and Bernheim partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kentucky field office to use bat conservation funds to finance the $1.4 million purchase.

Wourms said his staff has some work to do on the new property, like removing invasive species and taking inventory of what’s there. But he said eventually, the public will probably have limited access to it through guided tours.

With the Big Level tract, Bernheim’s land totals 15,625 acres, or more than 24 square miles.

“What we’re proud of is that provides clean air, clean water, tourism opportunities, outdoor education opportunities, wildlife and healthy environments for rare and endangered species,” Wourms said. “And that’s what Bernheim is about.”