April 24, 2017

NORTHAMPTON AND MONROE COUNTIES, Pa.—Today a special celebration was held at the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Federal, state, local and private partners gathered to recognize the partnership working to conserve key lands within the Refuge that will establish a core, protected area and preserve more than five miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit organization, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, is working to acquire the largest unprotected property, encompassing 4,662 acres, along the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania from Pennsylvania American Water Company. The Conservation Fund recently purchased and transferred 1,291 acres in Northampton and Monroe Counties to the Refuge thanks in large part to National Park Service-required mitigation funds, protecting wildlife habitat and expanding public recreational access. The remaining 3,371 acres will be protected from development if federal funding is provided through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as a crucial addition to funding already committed from the National Park Service-required mitigation as well as state, local and private partners.

“Today we celebrate progress and partnerships, but we still have more work to do to ensure that all 4,662 acres are conserved for the benefit of both people and wildlife,” said Kyle Shenk, Pennsylvania State Director for The Conservation Fund. “We will only be successful in completing this landmark project with federal funding from the LWCF and the continued support of state, local and private partners.” 

“The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is one of America’s most iconic long-distance hiking trails,” said Wendy Janssen, Appalachian National Scenic Trail Superintendent. “We at the National Park Service are thrilled that more than a third of this effort is complete, and we are committed to ensuring that the remaining lands are protected by providing mitigation funds from the Middle Delaware Mitigation Fund.”  

This tremendous $12.5 million conservation initiative is still awaiting $3.5 million in vital federal funding from LWCF—a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayer dollars. If appropriated by the U.S. Congress, this federal funding will be significantly leveraged with $9 million from various state, local, and private partners, including the Middle Delaware Mitigation Fund; the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through Walmart’s Acres for America Program; the Open Space Institute’s (OSI) Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund through funding from the William Penn Foundation, and its Resilient Landscapes Fund through funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; and Northampton County.

“I am excited to see so many groups working together to uphold our constitutional duty, but our work is far from over,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey. “I will continue to support funding for critical conservation programs, like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, so that we can conserve the beauty of Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania for future generations.”

“The Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Appalachian Trail are incredible outdoor recreation and preservation areas, and I admire the hard work of The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and their partners on this project. My staff and I look forward to working with these groups moving forward,” said U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.

“I am proud to do my part in this collaborative conservation effort to expand the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge by advocating for more funding for the Land Water Conservation Fund, an essential tool for preservation and stewardship of our nation’s natural landscapes, and for Cherry Valley to be one of its top priority projects,” said U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright.

Opened in 2008, Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in part to ensure the protection of the federally-listed threatened bog turtle, which can be found in wetlands throughout the valley. The property to be protected is an important part of Pennsylvania’s largest Important Bird Area, a globally-significant fall migration flyway used by tens of thousands of raptors and vultures and millions of songbirds. In addition, the forest habitat is one of the highest ranking in a statewide forest priority assessment, supporting breeding populations of cerulean warblers and other neo-tropical migratory bird species.

Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Lauren Imgrund said: “From Milford to Palmerton, this corridor encompasses over 70 miles of recreational opportunities along contiguously protected lands. These lands represent a relatively undisturbed tract of upland forest that supports habitat of a critical migration corridor along the Kittatinny Ridge and the headwaters of Ross Common Creek and Aquaashicola Creek, tributaries of the Delaware River. Opportunities to permanently protect large tracts of land are rare today, and DCNR is proud to be a partner in this tremendous conservation effort which supports our mission to build connections between the citizens of Pennsylvania and the outdoors through recreation enhancement, and natural resource conservation. Our investment in protecting Pennsylvania’s critical lands and resources enables regions and communities within PA to capitalize on the natural assets that drive economic development.”

Notably, the forested property features at least 77 amphibian-rich vernal pools—believed to be the highest number of vernal pools on any private land in Pennsylvania—as well as many important springs that supply clean water to wetlands and streams that flow into the Delaware River. Additionally, the property’s complex topography and geology make it regionally important for protecting diverse plants and animals threated by climate change. Thanks to these features, the first 1,291 acres were selected by OSI for protection under its Delaware River Watershed Protection and Resilient Landscape funds.

“Forests and other natural areas play a critical role in ensuring a reliable supply of clean water and mitigating climate change, in turn helping to meet human needs and strengthening our communities,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president at OSI. “These new additions to the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge protect important forestland and showcase the value of innovative and thoughtful collaboration in preserving water quality and climate-resilient habitat for millions in the region.”

“Cherry Valley is exactly the kind of project Walmart and NFWF envisioned when Acres for America was established in 2005,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “It’s an incredible example of protecting wildlife habitat while also securing the ability of the public to use and enjoy the land along the one-of-a-kind Appalachian Trail.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 7.8 million acres of land, including more than 102,000 acres of beloved natural lands across Pennsylvania at Gettysburg National Battlefield, Flight 93 National Memorial, Delaware River National Recreation Area, Michaux State Forest and across the Pennsylvania Wilds region.

Contacts:
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | (703) 908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org