The Nature Conservancy played a key role in establishing the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania
Cherry Valley The Nature Conservancy played a key role in establishing the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania. © Gates Rhodes

Places We Protect

Cherry Valley

Pennsylvania

The Nature Conservancy has played a key role in conserving one of Pennsylvania's most ecologically diverse landscapes.

Northeast Pennsylvania’s Cherry Valley encompasses a wide variety of habitats, topography and wildlife. Stretching from Wind Gap to the Delaware Water Gap, Cherry Valley is flanked by the Kittatinny Ridge, part of a 185-mile intact and forested wildlife superhighway and renowned bird migration flyway that attracts more than 20,000 hawks, eagles and falcons each year. This vast and mostly rural landscape also boasts fens and bogs, forests and meadows, farms and fields, and a native brook trout stream that flows into the Delaware River.

Conserving Cherry Valley

The Nature Conservancy’s first foray in Cherry Valley involved land acquisitions beginning in the late 1990s. Later, TNC bought a large farm, negotiating the Valley's first farmland preservation easement. The Conservancy leases the farm to Russell Blakeslee, who manages the land to benefit wildlife, especially grassland bird species like bobolink, and yield crops that generate an income for his family. 

Over the years, TNC also stepped up efforts to acquire land and conservation easements throughout Cherry Valley after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed a resident species—the northern bog turtle—as federally threatened. Today, TNC owns and manages eight properties and conservation easements in Cherry Valley that collectively represent the landscape’s ecological diversity.

At Hartman’s Cave, TNC works with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to monitor bat populations that have suffered significant losses since the arrival of deadly white nose syndrome. In recent years, surveys have shown a modest increase in bat populations, likely due to gating caves, conserving surrounding habitat and the evolution of stronger genetics passed on to new generations of bat species. 

A bat hibernates in Hartman's Cave.
Hartman's Cave Hartman's Cave is located within Pennsylvania's Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. © George C. Gress

In 2000, TNC began seeking opportunities to work at larger scales within Cherry Valley. This led to exploring, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Monroe County Conservation District, the viability of creating a National Wildlife Refuge.

With local and regional interest high, TNC and the partners joined forces with a then newly formed grassroots group—Friends of Cherry Valley—to mobilize a coalition of businesses, local governments and civic groups around lobbying Congress to authorize a National Wildlife Refuge. In a bipartisan vote, Congress overwhelmingly approved the 22,000-acre Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge Act in 2008.

Today, the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge boasts a mosaic of streams, wetlands, fields and forests that support vulnerable, threatened or endangered species including bog turtle and American eel, and common species such as black bears, bobcats and beavers. Cherry Creek, a state-designated High Quality Stream that harbors native brook trout, meanders through the Refuge before flowing into the Delaware River.

Since the Refuge’s creation, TNC has worked with partners including local townships, Monroe and Northampton counties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Conservation Fund, the Pocono Heritage Land Trust and the Wildlands Conservancy to add additional acres to the Refuge. This includes the former Cherry Valley Golf Course and its clubhouse, which now serves as the Refuge headquarters and visitors center. With help from partners, the USFWS is also restoring a spectacular array of wildlife habitats such as pollinator meadows, shrublands and additional brook trout habitat. TNC is also working with the United States Forest Service and the USFWS on restoring a critical section of Cherry Creek, which flows through the Refuge, to a more natural mix of wetland, floodplain and in-stream habitat.

A brown sign serves as a gateway to a wildlife refuge.
Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge A sign marks the entrance to the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania. © Gates Rhodes

The Future

In Cherry Valley, partnerships continue to flourish around conservation, leading to the National Wildlife Refuge's expansion as willing sellers and funding opportunities arise. The Conservancy, together with the USFWS and others, will continue to implement creative conservation strategies and habitat restoration projects that aim to safeguard wildlife and support local livelihoods throughout Cherry Valley, for years to come. 

Support Pennsylvania Nature

Help TNC and partners sustain a vibrant future for the communities and wildlife that share Pennsylvania’s diverse landscape.