Kentucky Heartwood Public Lands Attorney Job Description


Kentucky Heartwood is accepting applications for a Public Lands Attorney position based out of our Berea, Kentucky office. This is an excellent opportunity to be part of a front-line organization with a 32-year track record of successfully addressing some of the most important and challenging environmental issues in Kentucky.  The Public Lands Attorney position will focus on protecting mature and old-growth forests, water quality, and biodiversity on public lands in Kentucky, with an emphasis on the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Public Lands Attorney will work with staff to develop and implement strategies that integrate science and policy to effect meaningful protections for places threatened by resource extraction and other forms of degradation.


The applicant must have the ability to work well with a broad range of people from federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations, and members of the public. A demonstrated interest in ecosystem protection is required. Applicants should have a working knowledge of NEPA, NFMA, CWA, ESA, and FOIA and be licensed in Kentucky and admitted to practice in the Eastern District of Kentucky or willing to seek licensure and admission.


About the Position:

The primary goal of Kentucky Heartwood’s Forest Watch program is to foster forest and ecosystem preservation on public lands in Kentucky by stopping extractive logging practices and promoting science- and place-based ecological restoration and management. While we focus primarily on issues affecting the Daniel Boone National Forest we also monitor and engage in issues at Land Between the Lakes, state-owned public lands, and occasional private land issues as our capacity allows. While much of our work is necessarily defensive, we also work to proactively advocate for sound ecological policies with various state and federal decision-makers, including land managers, regulatory agencies, and legislative bodies. We collaborate with allied groups and partners across the region in pursuit of shared policy goals.


Primary Responsibilities:

  • Monitor and coordinate review of project proposals, environmental analyses, and decisions issued by the U.S. Forest Service for the Daniel Boone National Forest and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
  • Review and draft comment letters, administrative objections, and other documents in response to federal and state legislative and regulatory proposals affecting our forests and public lands. This may include participation in formal and informal administrative proceedings before regulatory and legislative bodies.
  • Work with the Staff Ecologist and Executive Director to identify issues of concern, incorporate relevant science and field-based information, and develop legal strategies for improving outcomes.
  • Submit FOIA and state Open Records Requests on a regular basis. Work may include FOIA appeals and litigation to ensure agency compliance with requests.
  • Develop and maintain expertise in relevant laws and policies affecting our core work. This is especially the case as it relates to the rapidly changing regulatory frameworks affecting national forest land management.
  • Litigate cases in federal and state courts, including developing and implementing case strategy, conducting legal research, drafting pleadings, motions, briefs, and other legal documents, and representing our organization in court and other venues. The Attorney will lead litigation and participate in litigation teams with partner organizations.
  • Cultivate strong relationships with Kentucky Heartwood partners and external stakeholders across Kentucky and the region.
  • Work with all staff to identify new opportunities and implement creative strategies to protect Kentucky’s rare and exceptional biodiversity on its publicly owned lands.


Required Qualifications:

  • Must be admitted to, or be willing to apply for admission to, the Kentucky Bar Association.
  • A strong commitment to addressing the causes of climate change and to the preservation of forests, biodiversity, and public lands.
  • A demonstrated history of advocacy experience, including familiarity with administrative review processes and litigation.
  • Excellent academic credentials.
  • Effective written and oral communication skills in both legal and non-legal settings.
  • Good interpersonal skills and a respect for differing communication styles.
  • An ability to build productive relationships with a diverse set of clients, partners, and governmental officials and staff.
  • Organization and project management skills.
  • Ability to identify and prioritize strategic objectives.
  • A demonstrated commitment to Kentucky Heartwood’s mission.
  • A genuine interest in and commitment to helping Kentucky Heartwood create and foster a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.


Work Environment:

This position reports to the Executive Director. Kentucky Heartwood offers a hybrid work model with flexibility between home and our office in Berea. Travel to various locations in the Daniel Boone National Forest is also required. While the Public Lands Attorney position is not a field-based position, occasional participation in fieldwork and field trips is strongly encouraged. Our work is place-based, and we believe that fostering real connections with the places we are trying to protect is integral to our work.


Salary and benefits:

This is a full-time position with a salary range of $60,000 - $70,000 for a 40-hour work week. Generous PTO policy, mileage, internet, and cell phone reimbursement, and health stipend. As a 501(c)(3) organization, Kentucky Heartwood is a qualifying employer for purposes of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.


Closing Date
Open until filled. Review of resumes to begin April 1, 2024


Send resume and letter of interest to:
Lauren Kallmeyer, Executive Director