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