As October arrives, wildlife watchers, outdoor adventurers, and citizen scientists head out to enjoy fall foliage and witness the annual migration of raptors and other birds, butterflies, and dragonflies.
Some of the best known locations in Pennsylvania -- Hawk Mountain, Waggoners Gap, Delaware Water Gap, Bake Oven Knob -- lie along the Kittatinny Ridge. This 185-mile stretch in Pennsylvania passing through 12 counties is becoming the newest region to be included as a Conservation Landscape.
Ridge and Valley Province in Pennsylvania
The Kittatinny Ridge is a part of the Ridge and Valley Province, a belt extending from southeastern New York through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and several other states into Georgia and Alabama.
The landscapes in this province are characterized by long, even ridges, with long, continuous valleys in between.
Kittatinny means “the endless mountain” to the Lenni-Lenape tribe of Native Americans that inhabited the region.
The Kittatinny Ridge is a major migratory superhighway that calls to thousands of bird species to follow its narrow spine along the eastern part of the North American continent.
Its unbroken forests and shrub habitat transects Pennsylvania running northeast to southwest from the Delaware Water Gap to the Maryland Border.
It has seven important mammal areas and is globally important as a flyway for 16 different species of raptors and more than 150 species of song birds.
The ridge also includes 160 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
In a study conducted by the Nature Conservancy, the Kittatinny Ridge was determined to be the most climate resilient landscape in Pennsylvania.
This unique designation is assigned to landscapes that provide an unbroken area for plants and animals to move to higher elevations as the climate gets increasingly warmer and habitats change.
Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes
Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscapes are an innovative framing of the conservation and stewardship of natural resources through partnerships that contribute to the long-term sustainability of special regions throughout the commonwealth.
Throughout the state, large regions are working together to drive strategic investment and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreational projects.
These collaborations are found in regions where there are strong natural assets, local readiness and buy-in, and state-level investment and support.
With the addition of the Kittatinny Ridge, there are now eight Conservation Landscapes in the commonwealth.
Kittatinny Ridge Conservation Landscape Goals
Partners in the Kittatinny Ridge Conservation Landscape are currently preparing a strategic plan. There are six overarching goals:
- Conserve land, protecting more than 700 of the highest priority parcels
- Conserve native habitat and wildlife to support species diversity
- Share conservation research including regarding habitats, management activities, history and communities
- Provide clean and plentiful water
- Protect ridge and trail landscapes through municipal action such as planning and zoning tools
- Community engagement to raise awareness about the connection between natural resources and economic revitalization
Kittatinny Ridge Partners
Stresses from a changing climate, inundation from exotic and invasive species, an overpopulation of white tail deer, and development have put this natural landscape in critical danger.
In 2002, the Kittatinny Ridge Coalition was created to address these challenges and protect this unique treasure.
The coalition tied together the combined strength of Audubon Pennsylvania, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy.
The coalition is the foundation of partners for the Conservation Landscape.
The Conservation Landscape leaders are DCNR Geologist Supervisor Kristen Hand and Jeanne Ortiz of Audubon Pennsylvania.
Get Involved with the Kittatinny Ridge Conservation Landscape
The Kittatinny Coalition is launching a survey to better understand the personal, cultural, and economic value individuals place on the Kittatinny Ridge.
Results may be used to develop improved recreation opportunities, enhance natural resource protection efforts, and develop a communication strategy to boost appreciation for and fill knowledge gaps about the ridge.
The survey is available online until October 28.
For information about things to do outdoors along the Kittatinny Ridge, visit the Kittatinny Ridge website. The site also includes information about ways to make a difference in the landscape.