A Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor:
Recognizing A Treasured Landscape
Donald S. Heintzelman
6345 Ridge Road, Apt. 2
Zionsville, Pennsylvania 18092
Copyright ? 2008, 2009 by Donald S. Heintzelman. All rights reserved.
20 June 2009
The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor, hereafter known as the Corridor, is a prominent 250-mile-long landscape feature containing 2,126,000 acres that crosses parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York (Anonymous, 2001; Miller, 1939, 1941). Kittatinny is a Native American word meaning “endless mountain” (Broun, 1949).
Shawangunk is a Lenape name, with the predominant translation being “in the smoky air” as noted by Zeisberger and Whritenour (1995).
The highest elevations along the ridge are 1,680 feet at a few locations atop the Kittatinny Ridge in Berks County, Pennsylvania , 1,803 feet at High Point State Park atop the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey, and 2,289 feet at Lake Maratanza atop the Shawangunk Ridge in New York (Dowhan, et al, 1997; Poole, 1932: 7).
The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge contains and protects extensive, contiguous blocks of largely undisturbed forest (Dowhan, et al, 1997) of particular importance to
breeding Neotropical migratory forest interior songbirds. The Shawangunk Ridge in New
York State is also designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the “Last Great Places” on earth (Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership, n.d., Partners Preserving A “Last Great
According to Dowhan, et al (1997), the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge “is a
regionally significant habitat complex supporting a diversity of rare upland and wetland communities and rare plant and animal populations, and serving as an important migratory corridor for many species of birds and mammals.”
It is against this extraordinary background that this unique proposal asks the United States government to designate the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor as the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor.
It is an example of a new and innovative wildlife conservation advocacy idea that stcan serve as a model designed for use in the 21 century. The federal designation would
create a prestigious new conservation advocacy tool for raptor and biodiversity purposes, enhance improved land use planning, and promote ecotourism within the corridor. Why Seek Federal Designation For This Corridor?
Why should there be federal designation for a Kittatinny-Shawangunk National
Raptor Migration Corridor? What legal land use protections would it provide for the
ridge and adjacent land within the Corridor? The following are important reasons for securing federal designation and recognition for this Corridor.
; Federal designation for the Ridge and Corridor will provide national attention,
increased appreciation, and prestige to the ridge and adjacent land which
collectively form the raptor migration Corridor.
; There will be virtually no expenses involved in making such a federal designation
by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior in 2009.
; There will be no legal changes to currently existing land use laws and regulations
for land contained within the Corridor.
; There will be no required changes in private land ownership for land within the
; Nevertheless, having federal designation for a Kittatinny-Shawangunk National
Raptor Migration Corridor will provide important benefits similar to those already
existing for important historic sites and buildings listed on the National Register
of Historic Places (but without having the financial incentives provided for
owners of buildings or sites included on the National Register), and having
important habitats listed as National Natural Landmarks.
; Having federal designation for a Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor
Migration Corridor will cause local and regional governmental officials and
planning commissions to carefully consider before allowing unwise or
inappropriate land use activities in sensitive ecological or environmental locations
within the Corridor.
; Having the federal designation also might encourage some local, county, and even
state governments to enact new and stronger land use laws and regulations that
can help protect and preserve the most important, ecologically and
environmentally significant locations and habitats within the Corridor.
; Currently there are no existing National Raptor Migration Corridors in the USA
or elsewhere in the world. Therefore, securing this federal designation for the
Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor will be innovative and break new
conservation advocacy ground. It can serve as a model for eventual designation
of similar migration corridors at appropriate locations elsewhere in the USA and
Two precedent-setting governmental designations exist in Pennsylvania for part, or all, of the Kittatinny Ridge and can serve as models for similar federal governmental designations on behalf of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor.
In 1978, the long-term raptor migration research at Bake Oven Knob, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, was the basis for the Lehigh County Executive designating (via his first Executive Resolution) the Lehigh County section of the Kittatinny Ridge as the Lehigh County Raptor Migration Area (Bausch, 1978; Heintzelman, 1979b: 180). That
same year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission also designated the entire length of the Kittatinny Ridge between Delaware Water Gap and Waggoner‟s Gap north of Carlisle as
the Kittatinny Ridge Birds of Prey Natural Area (Anonymous, 1979: 40; Heintzelman,
In 1992, the Wildlife Information Center, Inc. (now the Lehigh Gap Nature Center), Slatington, Pennsylvania, suggested seeking federal designation for the
Kittatinny Ridge and its adjacent Corridor because of is international importance as an annual, autumn raptor migration flight-line for tens of thousands of birds of prey (Anonymous, 1992a). A reply was received from the Secretary of the Interior, but no federal action resulted. Therefore, this current proposal evolved from the two earlier governmental designations previously discussed.
In 1993, a suggestion was also made that a Kittatinny-Shawangunk Interstate Park th century raptor corridor upgrade (Heintzelman, 1993b), be created as an innovative 20
and in 2006 a suggestion was made to establish a Kittatinny National Recreation Area (Anonymous, 2006d). To date, none of these proposals have become reality.
In 1998, the National Audubon Society also designated the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania as an Important Bird Area (AudubonPA, 2006).
Despite the failure of some of these previous efforts, it is increasingly appropriate to seek federal designation for the entire three-state length of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor as the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration
Corridor. Hence presenting this formal petition and science package to the Secretary of the Interior is the first step in securing that new conservation advocacy tool. Government Proclamations and Resolutions
During the past 25 years, governmental proclamations and resolutions celebrating raptors, raptor migrations, and hawk watching provided useful promotional tools for conservationists, educators, raptor biologists, and ecotourism advocates.
In addition to the 1978 proclamation by the County Executive in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (Bausch, 1978), and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (Anonymous, 1979), focusing on the importance of the Kittatinny Ridge for migrating raptors, the Governors of seven states also issued Hawk Watching Week proclamations from time to time (Heintzelman, 1979b: 180; Heintzelman, 1983b: 121-123). These states included Pennsylvania (e. g.,Thornburgh, 1982), New Hampshire (Sununu, 1983), New York
(Cuomo, 1983), West Virginia (Rockefeller IV, 1983), as well as Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
In addition, in 1984, the Congress of the United States of America passed a joint resolution proclaiming “National Birds of Prey Conservation Week” which was a unique
Congressional achievement. It served a useful national role similar to the state hawk watching week proclamations, and was used very effectively in Alaska, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and various other states (Heintzelman, 1984a).
Raptor Corridor Boundary Criteria
The area included in the proposed designation of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor includes the Kittatinny-Shawangunk ridge and land extending outward from the north and south bases of the ridge for a distance of five miles in each direction. Where necessary, some slight adjustments were made to include important landscape or other features adjacent to the outer five mile demarcation lines.
Selection of the five mile extension from the two bases of the Ridge is based on raptor observations secured during weekly roadside raptor surveys and mapping for a period of one year in Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, PA (Heintzelman, 2004c), roadside raptors surveys in East Penn Township, Carbon County, PA (Kunkle, 1994), my more than 50 years of observations of raptors seen within the designated Corridor (Heintzelman, unpublished observations), studies of nesting and wintering American Kestrels within the corridor (Bildstein, 2002: 22-23; Heintzelman, 1964, 1966, 1992a,
1994a; Heintzelman and Nagy, 1968), locations along various rural roads within the Corridor of utility poles and lines used as perches by American Kestrels and sometimes other raptor species (Heintzelman, 1992a, 1994a), Bake Oven Knob Area winter bird surveys (Anonymous, 2008d; Kunkle, 1997), locations of wetlands, ponds and lakes, rivers, streams and creeks, woodlots and forested areas, old field ecosystems, agricultural fields, and other ecological areas important as stopover habitat for migrating raptors and other birds (Heintzelman, unpublished observations, 2000b, 2001b), and enhancement of backyard habitats using native plants for birds and other wildlife purposes in various places within the Corridor (Heintzelman, 2000b, 2001b).
Geology of the Raptor Corridor
A detailed discussion of the complex geology of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Raptor Migration Corridor (Anonymous, 2001) as it extends for 250 miles along portions of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania is far beyond the scope of this paper. There are, however, some conspicuous landscape features associated with geologic phenomena in the corridor that the general public can easily recognize and appreciate (Miller, 1939,
and even hikers walking along the Appalachian Trial as it extends along the crest 1941)—
of the Kittatinny Ridge in part of Pennsylvania (Wilshusen, 1983).
Among the most conspicuous geologic features are water gaps where a river or stream cuts through the Kittatinny Ridge. Delaware Water Gap, where the Delaware River cuts through the mountain, is the premiere example of a water gap in the United States (Wilshusen, 1983), but Lehigh Gap where the Lehigh River cuts through the mountain is another excellent example of a water gap along the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania. Additional water gaps along the ridge in Pennsylvania include Schuylkill Gap, Swatara Gap and several Susquehanna River Water Gaps north of Harrisburg, PA (Geyer and Bolles, 1979; Miller, 1939, 1941; Wilshusen, 1983).
Other more or less conspicuous geological features are wind gaps—essentially
frustrated water gaps—where a running waterway started cutting through the mountain in the geologic past, but later was diverted to a new watercourse along the north side of the mountain (Miller, 1939, 1941; Wilshusen, 1983). Between Delaware Water Gap on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border, and Bake Oven Knob in southeastern Pennsylvania, geologists identify four wind gaps along the Kittatinny Ridge—Wind Gap, Smith Gap,
Little Gap, and Lehigh Furnace Gap (Wilshusen, 1983).
A few conspicuous boulder fields also occur along the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania. They include the Devil‟s Potato Patch north of Danielsville in
Northampton County, the River of Rocks within Hawk Mountain northwest of Kempton in Berks County, and Blue Rocks located within the Blue Rocks Campground near Lenhartsville in Berks County (Wilshusen, 1983).
Other Landscape Features
A number of other important landscape features are present on the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and/or within its corridor. Those identified here are relevant to the survival and conservation of wildlife and other biodiversity known to occur in the area. Rivers and Reservoirs
The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor is a major watershed for adjacent land and various public water supplies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. In
Pennsylvania, for example, there are four major or significant rivers and one creek creating water gaps (physical cuts through the mountain) where they flow through the Kittatinny Ridge. From northeast to southwest they are the Delaware, Lehigh, and Schuylkill Rivers, the Swatara Creek, and the Susquehanna River. There are also numerous smaller creeks and streams whose headwaters originate on or close to the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge in all three states (Anonymous, 1993; Geyer and Bolles, 1979; Miller, 1939, 1941; Wilshusen, 1983), and various reservoirs also are located within the ridge and corridor.
Adding to the aquatic resources of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor are countless farm ponds in all three states—some natural and some manmade.
Lakes and Wetlands
In New York, in the Northern Shawangunks which contain 94,000 acres of which approximately 40,000 are protected permanently (Burke, 2009), there are five so-called “sky lakes” which “from north to south are: Mohonk Lake, Lake Minnewaska, Lake Awosting, Mud Pond, and Lake Maratanza.” Four of these are acidic, but Lake Mohonk is buffered by shale bedrock and its pH is neutral (Dowhan, et al, 1997).
In New Jersey, prominent lakes on the Kittatinny Ridge include “Stony Lake,
Steenkill Lake, Saw Mill Lake, Lake Marcia, Mashipacong Pond, Kittatinny Lake, Lake Ashroe, Long Pine Pond, and Catfish [Sunfish] Pond” (Dowhan, et al, 1997).
Numerous freshwater wetlands are extremely important, but rapidly disappearing, ecological areas (U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1988)—a natural treasure
according to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1987). Hence wetland preservation remains a priority goal of conservationists because they provide essential habitat for a wide range of aquatic species.
Numerous freshwater wetlands abound in the ridge and corridor, including some that are restored or newly created including one on a farm a few miles south of Bake Oven Knob in Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and another near the headquarters building at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary on the Kittatinny Ridge in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Northern Bogs and Swamps
According to Dowhan, et al (1997), “northern bogs and swamps found in
glaciated terrain occur at a few locations on the ridge, most notably at the Mashipacong Bogs site on the Kittatinny Ridge. These dwarf shrub bogs occur on a floating sphagnum mat and are typically dominated by leatherleaf and other northern shrub species such as bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), pale laurel (Kalmia polfolia), and sheep laurel.
These bogs are often adjacent to or surrounded by black spruce swamps with varying amounts of tamarack (Larix laricinia).”
Dowhan, et al (1997) also states that “red maple swamps occur in several areas on the Kittatinny Ridge and a few small sites in the northern Shawangunks.”
“An inland Atlantic white cedar swamp occurs at High Point in New Jersey. Cedar was dominant at one time in this swamp but, due to logging of cedar, the swamp is now dominated by hemlock and red maple, along with young Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) and yellow birch, an understory layer of large shrubs such as great rhododendron, highbush blueberry, and swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), a
sparse herbaceous layer, and a carpet of peat moss” (Dowhan, et al, 1997).
Dwarf Pitch Pine Ridge Community
On the Shawangunk Ridge in New York, “the unique dwarf pine ridges community on the flat summit of Sam‟s Point is composed predominantly of dwarf pitch
pines (generally less than 2 meters [6 feet] tall) and black huckleberry, with gray birch, black chokeberry (Pyrus melanocarpa), withe-rod (Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides),
lowbush blueberry, hillside blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), sweet fern, and sheep laurel
(Kalmia angustifolia) shrubs, and herbs and grasses including bunchberry (Cornus
canadensis), Canada mayflower, pink lady-slipper (Cypripedium acaule), and cow-
Biologists consider this remarkable community “one of the most extensive
ridgetop pine barrens communities, and one of the few known dwarf pine plain communities occurring on bedrock in the world”. It is an area covering almost 5,000
acres (Burke, 2009; Dowhan, et al, 1997; Lougee, 2000), and is uniquely adapted to
periodic fire” (Burke, 2009). Lougee and Gifford (2001) prepared a master plan for long-term protection of this remarkable area.
Old Growth Woodland
There are a few remaining old growth woodland patches remaining within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor. On the Shawangunk Ridge in New York State, for example, some 5,000 acres of Dwarf Pitch Pine Plains contain some old growth woodland within the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park (Davis, 1993: 38).
According to Davis (1993) there are no old growth woodland patches remaining on the Kittatinny Ridge or Corridor in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, park wildlife biologist Larry Hilaire (e-mail of 26 February 2009) reports there are some “selected small areas of old hemlock and white pines,” perhaps 200 or 250 years old, remaining mostly in ravines inaccessible during former timber harvesting days.
One old growth oak and pine woodland patch containing two or three acres within the raptor Corridor also exists in East Penn Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania (D. S. Heintzelman, unpublished information). In addition, a few isolated old growth White Pine trees remain on another site in East Penn Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania (D. S. Heintzelman, unpublished information). Undoubtedly there are also other isolated old growth trees scattered along the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor.
Land Ownership and Use
Land in the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor is a mixture of public, non-profit, and private ownership. Some of this land is of major importance to wildlife and biodiversity survival and conservation. In addition, there are some major land use conflicts documented within the corridor including one major, nationally known Superfund site in Pennsylvania.
Delaware & Hudson Canal Heritage Corridor
The Delaware & Hudson Canal Heritage Corridor is a 35-mile-long linear park following the original path of the Delaware & Hudson Canal between Ellenville and Accord, New York. It contains artifacts and sites included on the National Register of Historic Places. The Corridor is a cooperative undertaking of Rondout Valley towns (Wegener and Harris, 2005).
Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor extends for 165 miles along the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers from the Wyoming Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania south to Philadelphia in southeastern Pennsylvania. The D & L Corridor bisects the proposed Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor, and the Appalachian Trail, at Lehigh Gap where the Lehigh River cuts through the Kittatinny Ridge at the intersection of Carbon, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties, Pennsylvania. Hence the D & L Corridor adds another important layer of historic resources to the mix of cultural, historic, and natural resources at that nexus.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the federal government via the National Park Service owns the 70,000 acre, wildlife rich (including wintering Bald Eagles), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area as well as owning, holding easements, or cooperative agreements protecting much of the Appalachian Trail corridor as it runs along the summit of the Kittatinny Ridge in both states (National Park Service, 2004b; 2004c; 2004d; Dowhan, et al, 1997).
Fort Indiantown Gap
Fort Indiantown Gap is a large U. S. Army National Guard Training Center in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, within the proposed Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor boundary. A rich biodiversity exists within Fort Indiantown Gap. For example, 81 species of butterflies and 237 moth species are known to occur within the Fort‟s boundary. A remnant population of the Eastern Regal Fritillary
(Speyeria i. idalia) is one of several rare Lepidoptera species identified within the Fort‟s
boundary (Ferster, Leppo, Swartz et al, 2008).
In addition, the Second Mountain Hawk Watch is located on Second Mountain just north of the Kittatinny Ridge and Fort Indiantown Gap (Heintzelman, 2004b). It provides some useful comparative autumn raptor migration count data from a ridge watchsite north of the Kittatinny Ridge, downridge from Hawk Mountain, and northeast of the Susquehanna River.
National Wildlife Refuges
Currently, one national wildlife refuge exists within or very close to the border of the proposed Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor in New York state. The Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge is located in close proximity to the northern Shawangunk Mountains and preserves 566 acres of important habitat for grassland nesting birds (Wegener and Harris, 2005).
In addition, part of the authorization on December 23, 2008, of the 20,466 acres Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania includes part of the Kittatinny Ridge and some land north of the ridge within the proposed Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor in Monroe and Northampton Counties, Pennsylvania, adjacent to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Edwards, 2008; Moriarty, 2008a, 2008b).
National Natural Landmarks
There are five National Natural Landmarks located in the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor. Designating nationally significant locations is done by the National Park Service in cooperation with owners of properties so designated. No designations are
made without the approval and cooperation of selected land owners. Some National Natural Landmarks are owned privately.
Conservation biologists, however, may seek National Natural Landmark status for additional exceptional sites on the ridge and within the corridor. These include Bake Oven Knob in Heidelberg Township/East Penn Township, Lehigh/Carbon Counties, Pennsylvania—a state game land and spectacular geologic feature owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission—and a major raptor migration watchsite where 47
years of continuous autumn hawk migration studies already are completed and published (Heintzelman, 1975, 1986; Heintzelman and Armentano, 1964; Kunkle, 2002, 2008a).
In Pennsylvania, there are three National Natural Landmarks in the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor—Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Berks/Schuylkill
Counties, Susquehanna Water Gaps north of Harrisburg, and the Florence Jones Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary in Cumberland/Perry Counties. In New Jersey, there is one National Natural Landmark on the ridge and corridor—Sunfish Pond on the Kittatinny
Ridge northeast of Delaware Water Gap. In New York, there is one National Natural Landmark in the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor—Ellenville Fault-Ice Caves
in the northern Shawangunk Ridge.
State ownership of land within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor in all three states mostly includes state forests, state parks, and wildlife management areas or state game lands in Pennsylvania (AudubonPA, 2006; Dowhan, et al, 1997).
The State of New York, for example, owns the extremely important and spectacular Minnewaska State Park Preserve protecting nearly 23,000 acres of critical habitat located in the middle of the Shawangunk Ridge—the largest open space area
preserved in the Shawangunks (Anonymous, 2008e; Burke, 2009; Dowhan, et al, 1997;
Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership, n. d. [Partners Preserving A „Last Great
Place‟]). Indeed, speaking of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, “the quality of the lakes,
the steep, stark cliffs, and natural ridge lines singly, and in combination, form one of the most scenic and biologically unique resources in New York State” (Anonymous, 2008e).
Sam‟s Point Preserve, another vital area containing approximately 5,000 acres in the southern end of the Northern Shawangunks, contains the highest area of the Ridge and is biologically significant as discussed previously (Burke, 2009).
In New York, the village of Ellenville also owns a watershed in the southern section of the Shawangunk Ridge, and another part of the ridge is owned by the town of Shawangunk (Dowhan, et al, 1997).
Non-Profit Organization Lands
A number of important non-profit organizations own large and important blocks of land in the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor. In Pennsylvania, for example, three vital sections of the ridge include (from southwest to northeast) the Florence Jones Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary, and Waggoner‟s Gap (AudubonPA, 2006), in Cumberland/Perry Counties, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and its Acopian Center for Conservation Learning in Berks/Schuylkill Counties (Bildstein, 2006; Bildstein and Compton, 2000; Broun, 1949), and the Lehigh Gap Wildlife Refuge in Carbon/Lehigh Counties (Hoopes, 2002, 2003a, 2003b).
In New Jersey, the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust owns the Reinhardt Preserve, and The Nature Conservancy owns several tracts of land on the Kittatinny Ridge—the
Arctic Meadows Preserve, the Mashipacong Bogs Preserve, Montague Woods, and the Nocella Nature Preserve (Dowhan, et al, 1997).
In New York, the Mohonk Preserve is located at the northeastern end of the Shawangunk Ridge and protects more than 6,500 acres of critically important and biologically diverse habitat (Dowhan, et al, 1997). Moreover, the Mohonk Preserve is
positioned directly adjacent to the much larger 20,103 acre Minnewaska State Park Preserve (Anonymous, 2008e), which collectively multiplies the overall biodiversity and habitat protection and preservation of both areas. Currently, 40 percent of the Shawangunk Ridge receives protection from land development (Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership, n. d. [Partners Preserving A „Last Great Place‟]).
Controversial Land Uses and Landscape Degradation
Ecologically and environmentally controversial land use activities continue to be proposed and/or used at some locations along the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor. They degrade and/or destroy a wide range of quality wildlife habitats, ruin productive farmland—especially in the Pennsylvania German parts of the Corridor in
degrade scenic landscapes, and have negative effects on the biodiversity Pennsylvania—
of the Ridge and Corridor (Anonymous, 1992b, 1992c; 2005c: 10, 2006c: 11; Burke, 2009; Heintzelman, 1989a, 1992d, 1995a, 2007a). A variety of efforts are being used, however, in various counties within the raptor corridor in Pennsylvania to protect and preserve farmland. To date, millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent buying development rights to these protected farmlands and additional development rights will be purchased in suitable locations in the future.
Nevertheless, large housing developments, shopping malls, quarrying, logging, and other land development activities—including a proposal for the sizeable expansion of
a small airport very close to the Bake Oven Knob Raptor Migration Watchsite in Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, PA (Heintzelman, 2005b, 2005c, 2005d; Kunkle, 2005a, 2005b; Palmieri, 2005)—are being placed in some environmentally sensitive
locations in the corridor. Building expensive houses on ridgelines and steep hillsides is also a continuing and disturbing landscape degradation problem in the Pennsylvania section of the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor (Heintzelman, 1993d).
Ornithologists long have known that communications towers placed on migratory bird flight-lines, and at times other areas, sometimes result in nocturnal migrating birds being killed (Avery, Springer, and Dailey, 1980; Drewitt and Langston, 2008; Hebert, Reese, and Mark, 1995; Manville, 2005, 2009; Shire, Brown, and Winegrad, 2000; Trapp, 1998)—estimated nationally from 4-50 million birds annually (Manville, 2005, 2009), especially when inclement weather conditions prevail—because birds become trapped in
light fields that surround continuously illuminated towers and continually circle the towers until they drop dead from exhaustion or strike the towers or support cables (American Bird Conservancy, 2009). There is also concern about “low-level, non-thermal
radiation” emitted from communications towers and its impact on migratory birds—
hence a continuing need for additional study of both lighting and radiation issues (Manville, 2009). Despite a growing body of knowledge about these issues, and repeated concerns provided to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service (e. g., Stansell, 2007), plus petitions to the FCC to address the issues, to date the FCC has failed to do so even after a federal court required them to act
appropriately (U. S. Court of Appeals, 2008).
Currently there are a moderate number of communications towers of various heights placed on the crest of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge, including several very tall television towers north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (D. S. Heintzelman, unpublished observations), and the number is increasing slowly. Therefore, it is important that townships and other municipalities, and wildlife conservationists, work to limit the number of towers being placed on the crest of this Ridge because of its importance as a raptor and other migratory bird flight-line.
To date, no utility-scale wind turbines are placed atop the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge, but in late July 2008 the owner of the Blue Mountain Ski Area applied to the Lower Towamensing Township Planning Commission, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, for permission for St. Francis University in Cambria County to construct a meteorological tower on the Kittatinny Ridge at Little Gap. Its purpose is to assess wind velocity, direction, and other related factors prior to building what appears to be a community-scale wind turbine to supply electrical power to the ski resort. Township planners “responded enthusiastically” to the idea (Christman, 2008). Notably, the township currently lacks a wind power ordinance to regulate the placement, height, and use of these machines within the township.
Conservationists immediately began opposing the scheme because of its serious potential threat to large numbers of migratory raptors, other birds, and bats that annually use the internationally famous ridge as a flight-line, and the precedent it would establish for other wind turbines being put on the Kittatinny Ridge (Ahner, 2008; Berg, 2008; D. S. Heintzelman, Action Alerts 1 and 2, News Release 1, 2008; Moser, 2008).
There is, however, a slow increase in utility-scale wind energy projects proposed for, or constructed on, some Appalachian ridges north and west of the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania (Capouillez and Mumma, 2008; Nazzaro, 2005; Olanoff, 2009). Raptor and conservation biologists, however, remain watchful for such proposals for all the Appalachian ridges in Pennsylvania (Capouillez and Mumma, 2008; Heintzelman, 2004c, 2005e; Katzner, et al, 2007; National Research Council, 2007) and adjacent states.
Indeed, in December 2006, the Department of Geography at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania hosted a “Wildlife and Utility-Scale Wind Energy Development of the
Central Appalachians within Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia—the
Risks and Trade-offs” conference. Nearly two dozen ornithologists, mammalogists, conservation biologists, and others experts made presentations regarding development of utility-scale wind energy on the Appalachian ridges of the Middle Atlantic states and its impact on wildlife—especially raptors, migratory songbirds, and bats (Anonymous,
From time to time, other environmental battles develop regarding the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor. An environmental protection battle in 1989 in Pennsylvania, for example, successfully stopped a proposal by the U. S. Air Force seeking annually to fly as many as 984 low-altitude military jet aircraft moving at 515 miles-per-hour within an oval “racetrack” crossing parts of numerous state parks, state forests, designated natural and wild areas, state game lands, and five miles of the Appalachian Trail corridor on the Kittatinny Ridge (Heintzelman, 1989b).
It is increasingly important, therefore, that conservation biologists develop new, innovative ways to call public attention to these and other threats to the Ridge and the most environmentally sensitive parts of the Corridor and its biodiversity and to develop