USFWS to Establish National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today approved the establishment of Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Pennsylvania.
The Service has established a boundary for the refuge, encompassing 20,466 acres in Monroe and Northampton counties, within which it may begin acquiring nationally significant habitat for wildlife as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
“It is a great honor, as Secretary of the Interior, to be able to recognize the establishment of this new National Wildlife Refuge,” Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said. “The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are committed to the protection and conservation of the environmental diversity of this country. This new refuge will allow us to further our mission as we work to ensure that generations of Americans long into the future still will benefit from the abundance of our nation’s natural beauty.”
Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge encompasses rare ecosystems, several plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, and numerous species of concern within the conservation community. Cherry Creek, in the bottom of the valley, ultimately flows into the Delaware River. Following the creek’s path, Kittatinny Ridge is a major avenue for migrating birds and bats.
“The partnership approach to the planning for the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a model for future planning efforts,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall. “The collaboration of officials from local, state, and federal offices, as well as non-governmental organizations made sure the process was efficient and comprehensive. The strong, grassroots support for the project shows that this habitat is nationally significant and Cherry Valley is the right place for a new national wildlife refuge.”
Hall said the agency accomplishes much of its fish and wildlife conservation mission by strategically acquiring and managing lands as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. At Cherry Valley, the Service’s next step is to work with partners and landowners within the refuge boundary to identify opportunities to acquire lands through easements and fee title. A number of organizations, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service and other entities already protect a significant amount of conservation land within and near the new refuge boundary.
The Service will work to provide opportunities for wildlife-related recreation – such as hunting, fishing and bird watching – and ensure these activities are compatible with the management goals and mission of the refuge.
The announcement culminates a movement begun in 2005 when U.S. Representatives Paul E. Kanjorski (Penn.-D-11th) and Charles W. Dent (Penn.-R-15th) co-sponsored a bill on behalf of their constituents to consider a prospective national wildlife refuge within Cherry Valley. The legislation was in response to a petition advocating refuge establishment endorsed by community leaders and local elected officials in Monroe County. The 109th U.S. Congress approved the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge Study Act in 2006. The study and an environmental assessment required under the National Environmental Policy Act were completed earlier this month, and the Service’s Northeast Region recommended establishment of the refuge boundary.
The completed study, which includes the final environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and other establishing documents, as well as answers to frequently asked questions regarding establishing national wildlife refuges, can be found online at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/.
The Service completed the Cherry Valley study in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations, including the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission, National Park Service, Monroe County Planning Commission, Monroe County Conservation District, Northampton Community College, East Stroudsburg University and the Pocono Avian Research Center.