Address: Mailing Address
Email: [email protected]
Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project
An Interstate Conservation Project Monitoring A Mountain’s Vital Signs
The Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project is a long-term wildlife conservation program initiated in 1992. Its goal: To preserve biological diversity by encouraging the protection, preservation, and environmentally appropriate use of wildlife habitat and open space along the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and raptor corridor in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Essentially, we are monitoring the ecological vital signs of the entire mountain, recommending assistance where needed, developing pilot and widespread ecotourism information and programs, and preparing and distributing related educational materials.
The Center’s concerns regarding environmentally appropriate uses of the Kittatinny Ridge and its corridor are rooted in our long-term Bake Oven Knob Hawkwatch which has monitored autumn hawk migrations since the early 1960s, a defeated hydrocarbon-contaminated soil-burning incinerator near the internationally important Bake Oven Knob hawk migration observatory, subdivision of land at the Pinnacle, and other environmentally insensitive land use activities.
The Kittatinny Ridge is a long mountain extending across parts of three states. It begins as the Shawangunk Range in New York, runs across northwestern New Jersey, and continues across southeastern Pennsylvania to its terminus west of Carlisle, Pa. This beautiful mountain is best known as one of North America’s most important autumn raptor migration flyways, and part of the route of the famous Appalachian Trail. Hawk migration observation sites are located along its summit in all three states.
Some sections of the mountain and corridor are in public or informed private ownership, and thus protected, but much of the mountain is underappreciated as a national treasure.
Parts of the mountain and corridor also are suffering environmental stress and could be lost to inappropriate land uses or other factors including lack of local zoning codes, forest fragmentation, land speculation and development, logging, quarrying, incinerator construction, wetlands loss, and one federal Superfund site. Hence action is necessary if the largely unspoiled character and natural features of much of the mountain, and numerous sections of the corridor, are to remain intact as a vital wildlife and wildlands area.
In March 1992, we recommended that the federal government designate the entire length of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge the “Kittatinny National Raptor Flyway.” The designation would not alter private or public ownership of land along the mountain. In 1978, the Lehigh County, Pa., executive had designated the Lehigh County section of the mountain the Lehigh County Raptor Migration Area, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission designated Pennsylvania’s entire length of the Kittatinny Ridge the Kittatinny Ridge Birds of Prey Natural Area.
Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project Objectives
These actions and concerns, and the Center’s Bake Oven Knob Hawk Watch, form the beginning of the long-term Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project which has five basic objectives:
- To foster via expanded public education programs a widespread and strong body of public concern, appreciation, and support (an actual land ethic) for protection and preservation of the entire Kittatinny Ridge and its corridor.
- To encourage private landowners, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations to preserve more key wildlife habitat on the Kittatinny Ridge and within the Raptor Corridor via use of appropriate land preservation techniques including gifts, direct purchases, acquisition of development and/or other easements, etc. Additional wildlife habitat preservation on the mountain and within the corridor helps assure that this major bird migration flyway continues to link New England, Adirondack, Catskill, and Pocono Mountain wildlands areas with wildlands wintering grounds in the southeastern United States and Latin America.
- To identify, contact, and work cooperatively with as many conservation and citizen organizations as possible to achieve the stated protection, preservation, and appropriate use objectives of the Kittatinny Ridge and corridor.
- To expand the Center’s data bases and conduct additional necessary wildlife field studies and other research at Bake Oven Knob and elsewhere within the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor. Further raptor studies in the Bake Oven Knob area, and preliminary ground and/or aerial surveys of all or parts of the Kittatinny Ridge will be among the necessary activities.
- To secure a 50- to 100-acre wildlife refuge and headquarters for the Wildlife Information Center within the corridor, preferably close to Bake Oven Knob, Pa.
As the project continues, we seek to cooperate with dozens of agencies, institutions, organizations, and individuals along the ridge and corridor. Significant opportunities are available to participate. We encourage people to become Center members and participate.
Agencies, institutions, and organizations can assist the project by sending a letter of endorsement for the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project to the Wildlife Information Center, Inc. Nearly two dozen local, regional, state, and national agencies, institutions, and organizations thus far have endorsed the project.
Conservation and Research Activities
The primary focus of The Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project is preservation of biological diversity, conservation of wildlife, and protection and preservation of its habitat along the Kittatinny Ridge and corridor.
To determine which areas are particularly important and/or at risk, surveys of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, and other species are needed along the entire length of the mountain and corridor. For example, we are cataloging Black Bear sightings, species and locations of big (large and old) trees, and conducting other wildlife inventories at specific locations. Fortunately, in some locations decades of published data are available. Indeed, a major corridor project priority is searching the published conservation, natural history, and scientific literature. From those sources, and newly secured data, we are building enhanced data bases reflecting current and changing mountain and corridor conditions.
If the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified and listed critical habitat for federally endangered or threatened species in a section of the ridge or corridor, details of the endangered species and the type of habitat so designated are being computer catalogued. Where the National Park Service designated Registered Natural Landmarks, those sites also are being catalogued.
Sites of natural history, scientific, and historic importance in local sections also are being identified and catalogued. Examples include wetlands, type locations of animal and plant species, scenic, unusual, and important geologic formations or features, and type sections of geologic formations. Prehistoric archaeological locations also are being identified and catalogued.
Also being catalogued are state game lands, public parks, and special refuges or reserves, plus communications towers, power lines, pipelines, and roads fragmenting the ridge, locations of forest fires, and even airplane crashes against the ridge or in close proximity to it.
The status of zoning in each township along the three-state length of the Kittatinny Ridge is of basic concern because some townships lack zoning. Therefore, the Center is establishing a computer inventory of the zoning code status of each township within the corridor. Currently a number of townships without zoning are open to environmentally inappropriate land uses. Those townships are vulnerable, and will receive special attention.
The Center also is establishing field and in-house research projects. Raptor surveys are conducted in some sections of the corridor, and observers are working on other wildlife surveys. The Center also established a registry of photographic stations. These are fixed-site locations from which photographs are taken at periodic intervals. A computer data base stores related information. The result is an invaluable ground-level record of landscape changes.
Development of ecotourism along the Kittatinny raptor corridor is a major part of the project. Emphasis is being placed on developing economic values for visits to scenic areas, and for bird watching, hawk watching, and nature photography. The Wildlife Information Center long has advocated these activities because they are the most ecologically sound and economically desirable options from a range of possible wildlife-associated opportunities.
Public education is an important part of The Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project. For details, see our Educational Programs page.
Land Preservation Activities
Protection of wildlife habitat and open space along the Kittatinny raptor corridor is essential. The Wildlife Information Center encourages townships within the raptor corridor to save as much habitat as possible as wildlife refuges.
We also urge private land owners to preserve land as wildlife habitat and open space. Even areas as small are 100 square feet can be planted in wildflowers to serve as butterfly gardens and perhaps attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
A new field of study called “stopover ecology” is developing that draws attention to the importance of sites that birds stop at during migration to rest, feed, or find shelter. These sites are crucial to the survival of these migrants. The Wildlife Center advocates preservation of as much land as possible as stopover habitat. This of course refers not only to land on the ridge itself, but also in the corridor which extends out several miles from the base of the ridge. This means preservation of farms and woodlots along the corridor. Home owners, even with small backyards, can contribute significantly to wildlife habitat by developing backyard habitats. A large number of such habitats could have a great impact on the survival of certain species.
Our Lehigh Gap Restoration Project is the centerpiece of our land preservation activities. This project encompasses establishing a wildlife refuge of approximately 800 acres of environmentally degraded land in the Lehigh Gap for the purposes of restoration, study, and education.