The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor is a 250-mile-long geologic feature that crosses parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, running from northeast to southwest. Strong, deflective updrafts and thermal air currents that occur along its length enable birds of prey, butterflies, and other migrating species to travel effortlessly. Every autumn, between 15,000 and 20,000 or more individuals representing sixteen different raptor species are reported at watchsites atop the ridge’s forested slopes. These hawk flights are the most historically famous and internationally important raptor migrations in North America.
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. The new Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is located near Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania, and the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge is located in close proximity to the northern Shawangunk Mountains of New York State. The Nature Conservancy designated the Shawangunk Ridge of New York State as one of the “Last Great Places” on the earth. New York State’s Open Space Conservation Plan has listed the Shawangunk Ridge as a top “Priority Conservation Project Area” statewide.
The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge also contains contiguous blocks of largely undisturbed forest of particular importance to breeding Neotropical migratory songbirds. Various diurnal raptor species and owls also nest along the ridge’s forests and cliffs, and within the adjacent corridor. A number of federal- and state-endangered animals and plants reside within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor.
The Kittatinny-Shawangunk Ridge and Corridor is a treasured landscape, which is why over two hundred individuals and organizations petition the Secretary of the Interior officially to designate it as the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor. Such designation will highlight the truly unique qualities of this special place.
Federal designation by the Secretary of Interior of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor would not change any current local zoning codes or other state or national laws or regulations. However, federal designation would give conservationists, land use planners, farmland trust and ecotourism advocates, and other interested people and organizations a conservation- and culturally-oriented tool for subsequent efforts to protect wildlife habitat, maintain farmland, highlight cultural and historic features, and enhance open space within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk Corridor.
The petitioners believe that the designation will support continued conservation advocacy programs in the corridor, and foster increased coordination, cooperation, and efficiency in enhancing land-use practices that maintain the special character of the area. As such, it will continue to provide critical habitat conservation for the plant and animal species that occupy it, and safe passage for those that migrate through it. The designation will provide a unique American leadership contribution to conservation. Likewise, the designation will provide an important model for similar designations elsewhere in the United States and internationally.
Federal designation will also provide a framework for sustaining other ecosystems services provided by the landscape. This, in turn, could play a significant role in expanding economically important ecotourism development within the corridor—an increasingly popular activity with important benefits to local communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.