A vital link in the 1,500-mile-long Appalachian Mountain Range.
Blue Mountain, Kittatinny Ridge, Endless Hill, Great Mountain. There are many names for the remarkable ridge that forms a 185-mile curving spine through Pennsylvania, from the Mason Dixon line to the Delaware River Gap.
The Kittatinny Ridge is part of an unbroken chain of forested mountains forming a vital link in the 1,500-mile-long Appalachian Mountain Range—a mosaic of rugged topography and varied elevation that makes it one of the most diverse habitats on Earth.
Identified as the most resilient landscape in the state for adapting to climate change, this forested corridor provides a natural highway that allows wildlife to move safely within and between climate resilient neighborhoods to escape rising temperatures, increased floods or drought.
That is why The Nature Conservancy is working with local, state and federal partners to conserve more than 15,000 acres on the Kittatinny Ridge over the next three years. This year, a new land acquisition will quadruple the size of TNC's existing Cove Mountain Preserve, creating a 14-mile corridor of protected land.
Why It Matters: Resilient Landscapes
Landscapes with diverse physical characteristics—such as steep slopes, tall mountains, deep ravines and diverse soil types—create numerous microclimates that offer plants and animals the opportunity to move around their local neighborhood to find suitable habitat. Connecting corridors, or natural highways, allow species to move safely within and between these climate resilient neighborhoods. Contiguous mountain chains like the Kittatinny Ridge provides many of these conditions.
As warmer temperatures, increased flooding and other climate impacts alter and destroy habitat, scientists believe resilient landscapes like the Kittatinny Ridge will be strong enough to continue providing safe places for diverse plant and animal species, while also providing clean drinking water, economic income and other vital services people rely on for survival.
The Kittatinny Ridge was designated as a Conservation Landscape by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation Natural Resources, making it one of eight large regions across Pennsylvania working together to drive strategic investment and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization and recreational projects.
What We're Doing
To safeguard the Kittatinny’s mostly intact wildlife superhighway, TNC is working with landowners and partners to protect 15,000 acres of the most critical, connected lands on and next to the ridge over the next three years.
A huge array of species already use the ridge as a yearly migratory corridor, including broad-wing hawks, kestrels, ruby-throated hummingbirds, eastern bluebirds, monarch butterflies and cerulean warblers, for which it has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area.
At least nine species of bats live on the ridge as well as other mammals that require wide ranges of intact forest as habitat, including black bear, bobcat and fishers. The Kittatinny Ridge is also home to the Allegheny woodrat, which is listed as threatened in the state of Pennsylvania.
In 2020, TNC completed two land transactions protecting 359 acres. In April 2020, we announced the acquisition of 232 acres of forestland in Letterkenny Township, Franklin County with financial assistance from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) through the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund. The property will be transferred to the Bureau of Forestry and become part of the Buchanan State Forest.
In June 2020 we acquired 127 acres of forestland in West Penn Township, Schuylkill County, with financial assistance from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources through the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The parcel was transferred to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and has been added to State Game Lands 217 and is directly adjacent to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Its protection will help buffer the Trail and protect the wilderness experience along the Trail.
We know that nature doesn’t recognize geographical boundaries. It’s not enough to have isolated landscapes that are resilient to climate impacts. If the natural pathways between them are destroyed, many species could disappear forever, making the protection of land in places like the Kittatinny Ridge so crucial.