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Executive Summary


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Executive Summary

      The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor is a prominent 250-mile-long, complex geologic feature that crosses parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. The highest elevations along the Ridge are 2,289 feet at Lake Maratanza atop the Shawangunk Ridge in New York, 1,803 feet at High Point State Park atop the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey, and 1,680 feet at a few locations atop the Kittatinny Ridge in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

      The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge includes and preserves extensive, contiguous blocks of largely undisturbed forest of particular importance to breeding Neotropical migratory forest interior songbirds. Various diurnal raptor species, and owls, also nest at some locations on the Ridge’s forest or cliffs, and within the adjacent Corridor.

      There are five National Natural Landmarks within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor, as well as numerous historic sites and structures listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. One national recreation area, two national wildlife refuge, one military reservation, and two national heritage corridors are also located within the Ridge and Corridor confines. In addition, The Nature Conservancy designated the Shawangunk Ridge in New York State as one of the “Last Great Places” on the earth.

      Ornithologists refer to the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge as a leading-line, and a migratory flight-line, for raptors whereas the Ridge and land extending outward from the north and south bases of the Ridge collectively are referred to as the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Raptor Migration Corridor. They are part of the larger Appalachian Raptor Migration Flyway.

      The Ridge’s geographic orientation in from northeast-to-southwest, and the strong deflective updrafts and thermals that occur along its length enable migrating raptors to ride these natural air currents effortlessly, significantly assisting birds in their migrations by allowing them to save energy. As a result, from 15,000 to 20,000 individuals of 16 species of diurnal raptors (birds of prey and New World vultures) annually are reported migrating past the individual raptor migration watchsites atop the Ridge’s forested slopes. These hawk flights are internationally famous among ornithologists, hawk watchers, birders, and other wildlife enthusiasts.

      During autumn, however, many migrating raptors tend not to adhere to the slopes of the Ridge for its entire length. Instead, they migrate for varying distances along the slopes, with birds drifting onto, and away from, the Ridge at various locations. Hence, migrating raptors seen at one watchsite on the Ridge often are not the same birds seen downridge at other watchsites. Species, wind direction, time of day, and month collectively influence where, and for what distance, migrating raptors utilize the air currents along the Ridge. During certain weather conditions, some raptors also migrate over adjacent farmland extending outward for about five miles from both the north and south bases of the Ridge.

      Since 1934, annual autumn raptor migration counts are made at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, and since the early 1960s at Bake Oven Knob and other raptor migration watchsites on the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor.

      At the most important Kittatinny Ridge raptor migration watchsites (Bake Oven Knob, Hawk Mountain, and Waggoner’s Gap) in Pennsylvania, thousands of people visit them every autumn. Hence they are important centers for hawk watching, birding, and ecotourism. Increasingly local schools (from elementary schools to colleges and universities) also visit the lookouts and use them for raptor migration study and educational purposes.

      A small number of federally and/or state-endangered or threatened wildlife species, and flora, also occur at various locations along the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor. In addition, the type localities (where the first specimen, or series of specimens, of a species previously unknown to science were secured and described as new to science for the first time) for at least one mammal subspecies, three bird species, and one geologic feature is within, or very close to, the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor in Pennsylvania.

      Direct potential threats to migratory birds using the Ridge as a migration flight-line, or the wider adjacent Corridor, include utility power line expansion, underground pipeline expansion, communication tower construction on the crest of the Ridge, and a proposed community-scale wind turbine atop the Kittatinny Ridge at the Blue Mountain Ski Area. Some common direct threats to habitat preservation on the Ridge and within the Corridor include logging, mining, shopping mall construction, housing and other land development, a proposed sports car race track, and gradual farmland loss.

      Curiously, the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor is not formally recognized by the United States government as an internationally important autumn raptor migration flight-line and Corridor. Nor does the federal government formally recognize the Ridge and Corridor as an important autumn migration area for Neotropical migratory forest interior songbirds (some species of which are seriously declining in populations), bats, and insects such as the Monarch Butterfly.

      Numerous buildings and sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places are located within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor.

      Therefore, the federal action recommended in this Petition and Proposal easily and inexpensively resolves those deficiencies by designating the area the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor. This will provide a unique American leadership contribution to raptor and wildlife conservation advocacy. It will also provide an important model for similar designations (where appropriate) elsewhere in the United States, and some foreign governments. Federal designation of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor can also play a significant role in expanding ecotourism and historic tourism development within the Corridor. Prompt administrative action by the Secretary of the Interior is recommended.

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