PINE MTN., Ky. (WHAS11) -- One of the top awards from the state's environmental cabinet is going to a private group that has been working with government agencies to preserve Kentucky's forest land and turn it back over to the public.

The Kentucky Natural Lands Trust was formed in 1995 and has been buying land, creating the Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor.

It just received the 2016 Energy & Environment Cabinet Secretary’s Award for its partnership with the state government in getting things done.

Recent pictures were taken in the Pine Mountain area of Eastern Kentucky, about 3 hours southeast of Louisville.

The photographer even had a close encounter with a black bear.

Photographer Marc Evans took the photo and wrote a blog post about it:

Through its partnerships, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust has protected more than 30-thousand acres of wildlands for Kentucky. It was recently given $3 million dollars by Louisville's Christy Brown to protect more land.

You can visit Pine Mountain and see the good work. Much of it is open for hiking. A good place to start is Pine Mountain State Resort Park. Stay in the lodge or cabins.

They have screened in porches.

Here’s a link: