Environment

Researchers at Bernheim Arboretum have discovered a second rare species of snail living near the path of a proposed natural gas pipeline in Bullitt County.

The Hidden Springsnail is a 2-millimeter-long, cave-dwelling species that depends on freshwater springs and caves. It doesn’t appear to have eyes and has never been seen before in Kentucky, said Bernheim Conservation Director Andrew Berry.

In fact, there are only five other occurrences in the entire world, he said.

Researchers discovered the snail living in an underground aquifer inside a hill that feeds a spring in the Cedar Grove Wildlife Corridor — a 494-acre property Bernheim bought in 2018.

“It’s just an incredible little unseen species. It’s been living here y’know, for tens of thousands of years,” Berry said. “And if we can go down there and find that, what else is just waiting to be discovered?”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Fontigens cryptica, the hidden springsnail found in Bernheim Forest on May 24th 2019.

The hidden springsnail is one of several rare species living near the path of a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cut three-quarters of a mile through Bernheim Forest.

The corridor is also home to other federally threatened and endangered species including the Indiana and Northern long-eared bats and Kentucky Glade Cress. Last month, researchers also discovered the rare Bluff Vertigo snail living in the same area.

Louisville Gas and Electric chose the route of the 12-mile-long natural gas pipeline to minimize environmental impacts to streams and wetlands.

Spokeswoman Natasha Collins has said the pipeline in necessary for continued growth in northern Bullitt County.

“It would enable us to be able to enhance reliability for the residents and the businesses in that area by creating a secondary path for the gas that travels to them,” she said. “But additionally it would enable us to be able to add capacity so we can continue to support development and economic growth in the region.”

Conservation easements prevent Bernheim from legally turning the lands over to LG&E for the pipeline. Regardless, Executive Director Mark Wourms said conservation remains part of Bernheim’s core mission.

“For 90 years, we have been committed to conservation, preservation, education and research. Our management and board of trustees are opposed to any development in this magnificent forest we protect,” Wourms said.

Bernheim Arboretum

Lori Schroeder searching for the Hidden Springsnail.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.