The Lebanon Valley Conservancy is joining with the Nature Conservancy and five other Pennsylvania land trust organizations in an effort to protect the Kittatinny Ridge.
The initiative will involve outreach to property owners in an effort to educate them about the scenic and biologically diverse mountain ridge in the hopes it will convince them to preserve their land. It will be funded through a $430,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, with matching grants from its land-trust partners, the Nature Conservancy announced recently.
Located in the northern portion of Lebanon County and known locally as Blue Mountain, the picturesque Kittatinny Ridge has many names throughout its 185-mile stretch across the Keystone State, including North Mountain, Endless Hill, Tuscarora and Great Mountain.
It’s is a vital link in the Appalachian Mountain chain and a challenging portion for hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Recreational hikers and bird watchers will also be familiar with places like Hawk Mountain, Waggoner’s Gap and the Delaware Water Gap, which are all located on it.
“The Kittatinny Ridge is a globally important flyway between north and south for migrating birds of prey and songbirds,” the Nature Conservancy’s land conservation manager Mari-Beth DeLucia said in a news release. “This mosaic of forests and rivers also provides habitat for many species including black bear and brook trout and ensures safe drinking water and clean air for tens of millions of people.”
Through the grant from DCNR, the Nature Conservancy will join with its land trust partners, which, in addition to the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, include Berks Nature, Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, Manada Conservancy, Natural Lands Trust and Wildlands Conservancy, said Kelly Donaldson, the Nature Conservancy’s marketing manager. Each organization will be using its portion of the funds during the next three years to reach out to ridge top landowners in their communities about the value of the Kittatinny and the importance of protecting specific places along the ridge.
In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 300,000 acres of unprotected properties along the Kittatinny Ridge, and the Nature Conservancy has a goal of preserving at least 15,500 acres, Donaldson said. The “highest-priority parcels” have been identified and their owners will have a suite of opportunities to choose from to enhance and protect their properties that includes donating and, in some instances, selling their easements to the Nature Conservancy or other conservation organizations.
The Lebanon Valley Conservancy’s $10,000 portion of the DCNR grant is smaller than other participating land trusts because the county’s Kittatinny Ridge region is not as vast, said board secretary Chuck Wertz. But preserving what it does have is just as important.
About 175 landowners with parcels on the Kittatinny Ridge in Lebanon County will be notified by mail about the Nature Conservancy’s preservation initiative, Wertz said. The Lebanon Conservancy does not have the resources to pay for easements and relies on property owners to donate them, he said.
“We are asking a lot of people,” Wertz said. “This initiative is for people who have it in their hearts to see the land protected. We are not going to have a lot left if we keep going at the pace we are going. That’s why it’s important that the Nature Conservancy get involved. They see the fragmentation happening on the mountain.”
Property owners may be unaware about the damage their actions can have on the ridge land, so the outreach effort will also serve to educate, Wertz added.
“People remove trees and put up lighting, which has an impact that goes on for acres when you have that kind of activity,” he said.
An informational workshop about the Kittatinny Ridge initiative has been scheduled by the Lebanon Conservancy from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Union Township Building, 3111 Route 72.
To learn more about the Nature Conservancy’s Kittatinny Ridge preservation project, including how to donate to the cause and keep track of its progress, go to nature.org/Kittatinny.
For more information about the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, including how to become a member visit http://lebanonvalleyconservancy.org.