Photo by Gates Rhodes.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Pennsylvania and Delaware announced that it has purchased 78 acres located in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, and transferred the parcel to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for addition to the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2008 to preserve critical habitat for migratory birds and threatened and endangered species.

“The Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a vital mosaic of streams, wetlands, fields and forests that support vulnerable, threatened and endangered species,” said Lori Brennan, Executive Director for TNC in Pennsylvania and Delaware. “This acquisition continues to advance TNC’s distinguished legacy of conservation in the Upper Delaware headwaters and we remain committed to preserving Cherry Valley’s lands, waters, and trails for generations to come.”

The transfer was facilitated with funding from the Keystone Fund and the Open Space Institute (OSI). The project was supported by OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, which seeks to protect water quality in the Delaware River Basin. Launched in 2014 with funding from the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative, the Fund has protected more than 21,000 acres of forested land to filter the Delaware River Watershed, a source of drinking water for approximately 15 million people — including residents of northeastern Pennsylvania as well as Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and New York City.

“This addition to the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a big win for conservation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as it highlights the importance of protection of wildlife habitat, water quality, and climate-resilient landscapes,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “Conservation of this magnitude is not possible without great partners, and we thank the Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy for supporting this important addition.”

“The Open Space Institute is proud to have aided in the expansion of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the protection of the Kittatinny Ridge focus area,” said Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator. “Not only does this area serve a critical function by filtering and recharging the Delaware watershed, it is also climate-resilient, providing safe habitat for wildlife in a warming world. OSI congratulates our partners at The Nature Conservancy for this conservation achievement.”

Since the late 1990s, TNC has worked with the 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. 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. Today, the Refuge features a wide variety of public recreation opportunities including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, and education. “The story of Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a story of friends and partners working together toward a common goal of land protection and habitat restoration,” said Mike Horne, USFWS Refuge Manager. “TNC has been a leader in this pursuit here in the valley since long before the refuge existed.  While this milestone is worthy of celebration, we look forward to many more successful collaborative conservation efforts in the future.”

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.



This post adapted from a release by TNC in PA/DE.