Service approves Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania
H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Marvin Moriarty, the agency’s northeast regional director, announced today that the Service has approved a new national wildlife refuge in eastern Pennsylvania’s Cherry Valley. The Service has established a boundary for the refuge, encompassing 20,466 acres in Monroe and Northampton counties, within which it may now acquire 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.”
“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.”
The Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge boundary harbors rare ecosystems, several plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, and many more species of concern within the conservation community. Cherry Creek, at the valley bottom, flows into the Delaware River. Following the creek’s path, Kittatinny Ridge is a major avenue for migrating birds and bats.
“Today is a wonderful day for Cherry Valley, and it makes the perfect holiday present for the residents of Monroe County,” said U.S. Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (Penn.-D-11th). “It is amazing to see such overwhelming grassroots support for an initiative…It is because of these efforts that I first learned about what a wonderful area Cherry Valley is and they are the reasons that I worked to pass legislation calling for a study of Cherry Valley. I would like to thank the many people involved for their dedication and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for establishing the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.”
According to Hall, the Service achieves much of its fish and wildlife conservation mission by strategically acquiring lands from willing sellers 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 from interested property owners through easements and fee title. Organizations, such as the Commonweath 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 endeavor to provide recreational opportunities, such as hunting, fishing and bird watching, when enough lands have been acquired to accommodate these uses.
“The Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge will protect a rare and important landscape for both people and nature,” said Bill Kunze, Pennsylvania state director for The Nature Conservancy.
“This project not only benefits rare plants and animals, but also a landscape of working farms and private homes scattered through a beautiful valley only 75 miles from Philadelphia and Manhattan. We’re very happy for the people of Cherry Valley, who have loved this land for generations, and have worked hard to bring this refuge to life,” Kunze said.
This announcement marks the culmination of a citizen-based movement to protect Cherry Valley. In 2005, 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 the valley. The legislation was in response to a petition advocating for refuge establishment endorsed by community leaders and local elected officials in Monroe County. Identical legislation was introduced in the Senate by then Senator Rick Santorum and co-sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter. 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, at which time the Service’s Northeast Region recommended that Hall establish the refuge boundary.
The completed study, including the final environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and other establishing documents, and 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.
“It is with great enthusiasm that I supported the creation of a new national wildlife refuge in the beautiful Cherry Valley of Monroe and Northampton counties,” U.S.Congressman Charles W. Dent said. “This refuge contains many critical ecosystems in the valley, and its protection will provide the greatest opportunity for wildlife preservation, public use and scientific research.”
“The federal approval of Cherry Valley as a national wildlife refuge will help provide important habitat to many species that are threatened, particularly majestic birds like broad-winged hawks and bald eagles,” Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell said. “It also supports Pennsylvania?s work to conserve natural resources in the Pocono Region, recognizing that they are critical to sustainable communities and economies.”
Dr. Douglas J. Austen, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said “The Commonwealth’s interest in the conservation and protection of Cherry Valley runs deep, as we have a multitude of trust species, including our state fish, the brook trout, and the state-endangered bog turtle, that inhabit and thrive in the diverse habitats within the new national wildlife refuge. The entire process culminating with the designation has been a model of cooperation, collaboration and vision on the part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and other partners. Everyone involved deserves the highest praise for this monumental accomplishment that will preserve Cherry Valley’s value to Pennsylvania’s residents, visitors and wildlife.”
According to Debra Schuler, president of the Friends of Cherry Valley, “The establishment of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge will now give conservation-minded landowners the additional option that has been needed to assist them in preserving their land as a legacy for future generations. Cherry Valley is such a unique place! Much of it has remained un-touched, which is why it has the qualities it does. Now we can move forward with protecting the environment, the animals that inhabit it, and its rich history.”
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.