The following text by our LVAS vice-president Jon Levin appeared in the April 9, 2008 Morning Call. Please see links below for important people to contact to support the creation of a local National Wildlife Refuge.

Few people in the Valley probable have heard of the proposed Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  Cherry Valley is located in Southeastern Monroe County which includes portions of Ross, Hamilton, Stroud and Smithfield townships plus the Delaware Water Gap.  Cherry Valley is a 30000 acre natural gem that harbors nationally significant ecosystems.  Many protected plants and animals reside in the Valley including federally listed threatened or endangered species.    Cherry Valley is also a major avenue for migrating birds of prey, songbirds, waterfowl and bats.  Unique habitats of the valley include mid-atlantic calcareous fens, Kittatinny Ridge, pitch pine/scrub oak barrens, kettle hole bogs and caves and Cherry Creek. 

In 2005 U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-11) and Charles Dent (R-15) co-sponsored a bill that was passed by Congress to evaluate the biological value of the natural communities with-in the Valley and to determine if the area merits protection as a national wildlife refuge.  The Fish and Wildlife Service has partnered with the Nature Conservancy to evaluate the biological value of the natural communities in Cherry Valley.  The study team includes members from the Fish and Wildlife Service,  TNC, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Fish Commission, Monroe County conservation and planning administrators, National Park Service and local academic institutions.  The study is taking place now and will be completed later this year.  

The findings of the study and records from the past are very interesting.  I have a special interest in birds so I want to start with some of the more unusual birds that have been found in Cherry Valley.   Wood Thrush, Prairie Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Field Sparrow and Northern Pintail have been recorded.  All these species are listed under the Audubon Watchlist and have suffered severe declines the last couple of decades.  Other birds include the Bald Eagle which is Pennsylvania endangered, the Osprey and Peregrine Falcon which are PA threatened and Green-winged Teal and Wilson's Snipe which are considered PA rare.  Other animal species include Dwarf Wedge Mussel and Indiana Bat which are U.S. endangered.  The Bog Turtle was found which is classified as U.S. Threatened.  About a dozen PA endangered plants have been found including Wild Bleeding hearts, Northern Water Plaintain, and Brook Lobelia.  Northeastern bulrush has been discovered which is listed as U.S. endangered.  

An additional proposal for Cherry Valley NWR would include Bear Swamp, Minsi Lake, Mount Bethel Fens and the surrounding area.  Some of this land is already in public ownership so it would make sense to include it the Cherry Valley NWR.  This would create a huge sanctuary of 1000 of acres.  The proposed Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge would become a haven for outdoor activity.  Activities for the refuge could include hunting, fishing, environmental education, photography, wildlife observation including bird watching. 

As a bird watcher for 30 years I understand how national wildlife refuges are a magnet for birders.  A latest government survey suggest there are 46 million birders in the US and is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country.  Imagine having a National Wildlife Refuge in our backyard attracting some of these bird watchers and other wildlife enthusiast. The economic benefit to the area would be very positive.  Cherry Valley NWR would be within a two hour drive of millions of people.  The economic benefits are important in support the Cherry Valley NWR but the most significant reason to support the Cherry Valley is the preservation of open space and wildlife habitat.   

We all have seen the explosive growth here in the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos.  It is becoming much more difficult to protect the remaining opening spaces This is our chance to protect a huge area with varied habitats for the benefit of wildlife.  This is an opportunity we will never have again. 

Please support the Cherry Valley NWR by contacting the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service at:
Carl Melberg
Refuge Planner
73 Weir Hill Rd.
Sudbury, MA  01776
(978) 443-4661 x 32
(978) 443- 2898 fax
northeastplanning@fws.gov with Cherry Valley in the subject line.

It is especially important for people who live in the Cherry Valley, Bear Swamp, Minsi Lake, Mount Bethel Fens area to let the Fish and Wildlife Service know how special the area is.  Anyone who bird watches in this area and keeps records of their sightings needs to let the FWS know of uncommon birds they have seen over the years.   The same goes for amateur botanists and herpetologists.    This is a great opportunity for citizen science to help create a NWR.  The FWS needs to know why this area should be protected as a NWR.

 Also contact your elected officials to support the Cherry Valley NWR proposal and thank U.S. Rep. Kanjorski  and Dent for their foresight.

 Finally, check out the Lehigh Valley Audubon web page for my contact information.  I will keep updated on public meetings and any other activities about the Cherry Valley NWR proposal and forward that information to interested people.  Our web site is http://www.lehigh.edu/~bcm0/lvas/index.html.   With our support the Cherry Valley NWR will become a reality.  Future generations will thank us for it.

Jon Levin