Federal officials today dedicated the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge, to protect habitat for more than 80 rare species of plants and animals, located just a few hours from the busy streets of New York City and Philadelphia.
Nearly two years ago, the boundary for the refuge was drawn to include up to 20,400 acres of land in Monroe and Northampton counties, which gave the US Fish and Wildlife Service authority to start purchasing conservation lands from willing sellers.
Earlier this month, Mary and Dominick Sorrenti of Sorrenti’s Cherry Valley Vineyards became the first, selling 185 acres to the Service. More than 100 of their 750 fellow landowners have expressed interest in adding to the refuge in the coming years, while other nearby lands have already been protected through county, municipal and conservancy programs.
“Cherry Valley is an important part of the Conservancy’s work to protect Pennsylvania’s special places, for people and for nature,” said Pennsylvania Chapter Executive Director Bill Kunze. “This refuge will help protect working farms and a portion of the Appalachian Trail, as well as habitat for wildlife such as bald eagles and rare wildflowers such as spreading globeflower.”
Cherry Valley is only the third national wildlife refuge to be established in Pennsylvania, and the state’s first since 1972. The Sorrenti property, which includes the headwaters of Cherry Creek, will protect key wetland habitat.
Support for the project was provided by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that provides funding for conservation projects nationwide.
Cherry Valley also hosts a breeding population of globally rare cerulean warblers, while other migratory songbirds can be seen traveling though on their annual migration. Several species of rare plants are found within the refuge boundary, as well as bobcats, black bear, hawks and osprey. The valley also hosts a population of federally protected bog turtles.
“We’re proud to have been a part of this community effort to protect a place that local people love and have long recognized as important,” said Bud Cook, Northeast Pennsylvania Director for the Nature Conservancy. “This land acquisition reinforces what people have always known in Cherry Valley, that people and wildlife can, indeed, live in harmony with one another.”
“Cherry Valley is a model for the President’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative,” said US Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould. “It is an example of how private citizens and local communities can safeguard the places they care about. The Service is pleased to be part of the citizen-led partnership that helped create this refuge, and we look forward to working with our new neighbors to protect additional lands as part of the refuge.”
The Nature Conservancy has been working to conserve habitat in the Cherry Valley area for more than 15 years. Conservancy staff will continue to work with partner organizations and community leaders to spread the word about the refuge and help interested landowners navigate the process of protecting their land.
Support from local leaders — including Rep, Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11th) and Rep. Charles Dent (PA-15th) who sponsored the federal legislation to establish the refuge — has been critical to the project’s success, Cook said.
The Nature Conservancy’s partners at Cherry Valley include: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Cherry Valley, Monroe County Conservation District, Monroe County Agricultural Land Preservation Board, Pocono Heritage Land Trust, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Brodhead Watershed Association and local municipalities.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.