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Petition For

A Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor:

Recognizing A Treasured Landscape

Submitted by

Donald S. Heintzelman

6345 Ridge Road, Apt. 2

Zionsville, Pennsylvania 18092  

Copyright © 2008, 2009 by Donald S. Heintzelman. All rights reserved.  

20 June 2009


      The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor, hereafter known as the Corridor, is a prominent 250-mile-long landscape feature containing 2,126,000 acres that crosses parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York (Anonymous, 2001; Miller, 1939, 1941). Kittatinny is a Native American word meaning “endless mountain” (Broun, 1949). Shawangunk is a Lenape name, with the predominant translation being “in the smoky air” as noted by Zeisberger and Whritenour (1995).

      The highest elevations along the ridge are 1,680 feet at a few locations atop the Kittatinny Ridge in Berks County, Pennsylvania , 1,803 feet at High Point State Park atop the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey, and 2,289 feet at Lake Maratanza atop the Shawangunk Ridge in New York (Dowhan, et al, 1997; Poole, 1932: 7).

      The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge contains and protects extensive, contiguous blocks of largely undisturbed forest (Dowhan, et al, 1997) of particular importance to breeding Neotropical migratory forest interior songbirds. The Shawangunk Ridge in New York State is also designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the “Last Great Places” on earth (Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership, n.d., Partners Preserving A “Last Great Place”).

      According to Dowhan, et al (1997), the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge “is a regionally significant habitat complex supporting a diversity of rare upland and wetland communities and rare plant and animal populations, and serving as an important migratory corridor for many species of birds and mammals.”

Unique Proposal

      It is against this extraordinary background that this unique proposal asks the United States government to designate the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor as the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor.

      It is an example of a new and innovative wildlife conservation advocacy idea that can serve as a model designed for use in the 21st century. The federal designation would create a prestigious new conservation advocacy tool for raptor and biodiversity purposes, enhance improved land use planning, and promote ecotourism within the corridor.

Why Seek Federal Designation For This Corridor?

   Why should there be federal designation for a Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor? What legal land use protections would it provide for the ridge and adjacent land within the Corridor? The following are important reasons for securing federal designation and recognition for this Corridor.

  • Federal designation for the Ridge and Corridor will provide national attention, increased appreciation, and prestige to the ridge and adjacent land which collectively form the raptor migration Corridor.
  • There will be virtually no expenses involved in making such a federal designation by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior in 2009.
  • There will be no legal changes to currently existing land use laws and regulations for land contained within the Corridor.
  • There will be no required changes in private land ownership for land within the Corridor.
  • Nevertheless, having federal designation for a Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor will provide important benefits similar to those already existing for important historic sites and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places (but without having the financial incentives provided for owners of buildings or sites included on the National Register), and having important habitats listed as National Natural Landmarks.
  • Having federal designation for a Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor will cause local and regional governmental officials and planning commissions to carefully consider before allowing unwise or inappropriate land use activities in sensitive ecological or environmental locations within the Corridor.
  • Having the federal designation also might encourage some local, county, and even state governments to enact new and stronger land use laws and regulations that can help protect and preserve the most important, ecologically and environmentally significant locations and habitats within the Corridor.
  • Currently there are no existing National Raptor Migration Corridors in the USA or elsewhere in the world. Therefore, securing this federal designation for the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor will be innovative and break new conservation advocacy ground. It can serve as a model for eventual designation of similar migration corridors at appropriate locations elsewhere in the USA and perhaps overseas.

Special Designations

      Two precedent-setting governmental designations exist in Pennsylvania for part, or all, of the Kittatinny Ridge and can serve as models for similar federal governmental designations on behalf of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor.

      In 1978, the long-term raptor migration research at Bake Oven Knob, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, was the basis for the Lehigh County Executive designating (via his first Executive Resolution) the Lehigh County section of the Kittatinny Ridge as the Lehigh County Raptor Migration Area (Bausch, 1978; Heintzelman, 1979b: 180). That same year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission also designated the entire length of the Kittatinny Ridge between Delaware Water Gap and Waggoner’s Gap north of Carlisle as the Kittatinny Ridge Birds of Prey Natural Area (Anonymous, 1979: 40; Heintzelman, 1983b: 117). 

      In 1992, the Wildlife Information Center, Inc. (now the Lehigh Gap Nature Center), Slatington, Pennsylvania, suggested seeking federal designation for the Kittatinny Ridge and its adjacent Corridor because of is international importance as an annual, autumn raptor migration flight-line for tens of thousands of birds of prey (Anonymous, 1992a). A reply was received from the Secretary of the Interior, but no federal action resulted. Therefore, this current proposal evolved from the two earlier governmental designations previously discussed.

      In 1993, a suggestion was also made that a Kittatinny-Shawangunk Interstate Park be created as an innovative 20th century raptor corridor upgrade (Heintzelman, 1993b), and in 2006 a suggestion was made to establish a Kittatinny National Recreation Area (Anonymous, 2006d). To date, none of these proposals have become reality.

      In 1998, the National Audubon Society also designated the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania as an Important Bird Area (AudubonPA, 2006).

      Despite the failure of some of these previous efforts, it is increasingly appropriate to seek federal designation for the entire three-state length of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor as the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor. Hence presenting this formal petition and science package to the Secretary of the Interior is the first step in securing that new conservation advocacy tool.

Government Proclamations and Resolutions

      During the past 25 years, governmental proclamations and resolutions celebrating raptors, raptor migrations, and hawk watching provided useful promotional tools for conservationists, educators, raptor biologists, and ecotourism advocates.

      In addition to the 1978 proclamation by the County Executive in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (Bausch, 1978), and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (Anonymous, 1979), focusing on the importance of the Kittatinny Ridge for migrating raptors, the Governors of seven states also issued Hawk Watching Week proclamations from time to time (Heintzelman, 1979b: 180; Heintzelman, 1983b: 121-123). These states included Pennsylvania (e. g.,Thornburgh, 1982), New Hampshire (Sununu, 1983), New York (Cuomo, 1983), West Virginia (Rockefeller IV, 1983), as well as Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

      In addition, in 1984, the Congress of the United States of America passed a joint resolution proclaiming “National Birds of Prey Conservation Week” which was a unique Congressional achievement. It served a useful national role similar to the state hawk watching week proclamations, and was used very effectively in Alaska, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and various other states (Heintzelman, 1984a).

Raptor Corridor Boundary Criteria

      The area included in the proposed designation of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor includes the Kittatinny-Shawangunk ridge and land extending outward from the north and south bases of the ridge for a distance of five miles in each direction. Where necessary, some slight adjustments were made to include important landscape or other features adjacent to the outer five mile demarcation lines.

      Selection of the five mile extension from the two bases of the Ridge is based on raptor observations secured during weekly roadside raptor surveys and mapping for a period of one year in Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County, PA (Heintzelman, 2004c), roadside raptors surveys in East Penn Township, Carbon County, PA (Kunkle, 1994), my more than 50 years of observations of raptors seen within the designated Corridor (Heintzelman, unpublished observations), studies of nesting and wintering American Kestrels within the corridor (Bildstein, 2002: 22-23; Heintzelman, 1964, 1966, 1992a, 1994a; Heintzelman and Nagy, 1968), locations along various rural roads within the Corridor of utility poles and lines used as perches by American Kestrels and sometimes other raptor species (Heintzelman, 1992a, 1994a), Bake Oven Knob Area winter bird surveys (Anonymous, 2008d; Kunkle, 1997), locations of wetlands, ponds and lakes, rivers, streams and creeks, woodlots and forested areas, old field ecosystems, agricultural fields, and other ecological areas important as stopover habitat for migrating raptors and other birds (Heintzelman, unpublished observations, 2000b, 2001b), and enhancement of backyard habitats using native plants for birds and other wildlife purposes in various places within the Corridor (Heintzelman, 2000b, 2001b).

To view the entire petition, please download the attached document.

Petition.doc570.5 KB