On December 23rd, the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania was the newest refuge established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Today is a wonderful day for Cherry Valley, and it marks the perfect holiday present for the residents of Monroe County” said Congressman Kanjorski of Pennsylvania’s District 11. “It is amazing to see such overwhelming grassroots support for an initiative, as I have witnessed with Cherry Valley. It is because of these efforts that I first learned about what a wonderful area Cherry Valley is and they are the reason that I worked to pass legislation calling for a study of Cherry Valley” in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, district 15, also was a sponsor for the legislation to study the area and its potential for a refuge.

“The establishment of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is incredibly important for the quality of life in Monroe County,” said Monroe County Commissioner Suzanne McCool. “Congressman Kanjorski has relentlessly worked to push for the creation of this refuge since 2004. Additionally, the many dedicated residents in Monroe County helped bring the issue of Cherry Valley to the forefront and make the refuge a reality.”

“The legislation requires that the Fish and Wildlife Service conduct a study of fish and wildlife habitat and aquatic and terrestrial communities within the area,” according to information on the website of Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski, of Pennsylvania’s 11th district. “Upon completion of the study, the Fish and Wildlife Service must issue a management plan that provides planning for wildlife and habitat restoration, design of access points and trails and creation of permanent exhibits and educational programs throughout the Refuge.”

“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, Fish and Wildlife Service Director. “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.”

Findings of the evaluation study indicated numerous biotic features that support establishing a 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,” according to findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). “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.”

The refuge area includes several Federally endangered or threatened species, as well as a number of plant species endangered in Pannsylvania, according to the Friends of Cherry Valley, that said about 2000 acres have already been protected through land purchases, donations of property, and conservation easements. Eight species of waterfowl of priority concern according to the North American Wetland Conservation Act and 16 bird species of regional concern occur in Cherry Valley, with the Kittatinny Ridge within the refuge a flyway for raptors, with important forests for the Cerulean Warbler and other neotropical song bird species.

“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,” according to information on the FWS website.

The completed study, which includes the final environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact and other establishing documents, as well as answers to frequently asked questions regarding establishing national wildlife refuges, can be found at the web page for the northeast region of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“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,” according to Debra Schuler, president of the Friends of Cherry Valley. “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 Nature Conservancy reports, that the FWS “would be authorized to purchase some land outright and protect other acres through voluntary conservation easements, preserving not only habitat for the rare plants and animals, but also the scenic rural landscape of working farms and private homes throughout the valley.”

The new refuge, along the Delaware River near Stroudsburg and Brodheadsville, is only the third national refuge in Pennsylvania, and the first established since 1972. The others’ are the Erie NWR and the John Heinz NWR.

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