SAVE THE APPALACHIAN RIDGES AND BIRD LIFE IN PENNSYLVANIA
A PLEA BY DONALD HEINTZELMAN, ORNITHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR
Donald Heinzelman has conceived and proposed to the U. S. Department of the Interior the federal designation of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor as a unique, pioneering raptor conservation advocacy resource. Well over 250 endorsement and/or support letters—including one from the Pennsylvania Game Commission—were received from across Pennsylvania, the United States, and around the world.
Donald is a member of Save the Eagles International
Comments and Recommendations Regarding the
Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bald Eagle Management Plan
Submitted by ornithologist and author
Donald S. Heintzelman
25 February 2011
The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), the national bird of the United States of America, is one of the most spectacular raptors found throughout most of North America. Recently the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) presented to the public a draft Bald Eagle Management Plan and requested comments and recommendations from the public. These are my professional comments and recommendations pertaining to that eagle management plan.
Bake Oven Knob
Bake Oven Knob is a nationally important autumn raptor migration watch site which, in 2010, celebrated its 50th consecutive year of raptor (hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures) counting and monitoring. It is located on State Game Land 217 atop the Kittatinny Ridge in Lehigh and Carbon Counties, PA. It is one of three essential autumn raptor migration monitoring sites on the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania (Bake Oven Knob, Hawk Mountain, and Waggoner’s Gap) producing data necessary to correctly understand autumn eagle and other raptor migrations along this internationally known and celebrated ridge, flight-line, and corridor. As such, it has and continues to produce a large and important published raptor migration literature during the past 50 years.
Therefore, it is astonishing that the authors of the PGC’s proposed Bald Eagle management plan fail to even mention Bake Oven Knob let alone cite the rich body of published raptor migration literature pertaining to Bake Oven Knob in its proposed management plan. This is a major flaw in the plan and needs to be comprehensively corrected in the next revised version of the plan. Failure to do so will raise major questions regarding the accuracy and validity of the entire plan and its recommendations.
Educating the public about eagles and other raptors has a long and pioneering history in Pennsylvania—beginning in the late 19th century, since 1934 at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and later at other raptor migration watch sites such as Bake Oven Knob and Waggoner’s Gap also along the Kittatinny Ridge.
Other locations where eagle watching is notable include the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County, Pymatuning in Erie County, along the lower Susquehanna River in Lancaster and York Counties, and certain locations along the Delaware River in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Both structured and formal, as well as informal, public educational activities occur at many of these locations. Many of these educational activities are conducted by birding and conservation organizations whereas others are by the PGC—especially at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. In addition, newspaper OP ED pieces, books, magazine articles, handout information sheets (especially those published by the PGC) and brochures, also contribute to educating the public about eagle and raptor watching opportunities along the Kittatinny Ridge.
The eagle management plan needs to discuss all of these activities in much greater detail, fully develop a wide range of formal and informal educational resources and activities pertaining to Bald and Golden Eagles and other raptors, and cite and utilize all of the relevant published literature pertaining to these continuing activities.
Hawk Watching Week Proclamations and Designations
For many decades, various Governors of Pennsylvania going back to the administration of Dick Thornburg issued Hawk Watching Week proclamations or designations. The most recent was in 2010 by Governor Ed Rendell. These proclamations and designations are very useful eagle and other raptor educational advocacy and promotional tools.
The authors of the eagle management plan make no mention of these important eagle and other raptor educational advocacy and promotional tools. They need to be discussed and their value fully explained and utilized in the next draft of the plan. That is especially true because, as the Commonwealth’s official bird and mammal wildlife agency, the public expects the PGC to know about and fully and creatively utilize these raptor advocacy tools. It is disconcerting that the PGC fails to do so in its draft Bald Eagle management plan.
Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project
In 1992 I conceived and launched at the Wildlife Information Center, Inc. (now the Lehigh Gap Nature Center) the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project. For the first time, this unique project examined the entire Kittatinny Ridge and its adjacent corridor in terms of promoting conservation, ecotourism, education, recreation (raptor and bird and wildlife watching), and research along the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania. The Lehigh Gap Nature Center, in particular, continues to make good and creative use of this important resource, and I recommend that many other organizations and agencies including the PGC do likewise.
The PGC authors of the eagle management plan make no mention of this comprehensive and landmark Kittatinny Ridge project. This suggests they are not aware of it, and the many achievements it has produced to date. That is another major flaw in the draft management plan and needs to be fully corrected in the revised version of the plan.
Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor
In 2009, I conceived and proposed to the U. S. Department of the Interior federal designation of a Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor as a unique, pioneering raptor conservation advocacy resource. Well over 250 endorsement and/or support letters—including one from the Pennsylvania Game Commission—were received from across Pennsylvania, the United States, and around the world. They make very clear the very widespread and enthusiastic endorsement and support for this unique, pioneering effort. Currently, this proposed is being studied and evaluated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, DC. If successful, it will be the nation’s and world’s first formally designated national raptor migration corridor, and serve as a model for similar appropriate designations elsewhere in the United States and in the world.
Curiously, the PGC authors of the eagle management plan make no mention of this major and unique raptor conservation advocacy effort. That error of omission needs to be fully corrected in the next draft of the plan!
Other Kittatinny Ridge Special Designations
To date, several governmental agencies, including the Pennsylvania Game Commission, have conferred special designations to all or parts of the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania. In February 1979, for example, in Pennsylvania Game News, the PGC announced it designated the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania as the Kittatinny Ridge Birds of Prey Natural Area. The purpose of the designation was “in recognition of the international significance of that area as a major autumn migration route for birds of prey.
“It is hoped by the Game Commission that the action will promote interest in annual hawk migrations and, in turn, increase public awareness and understanding of the Game Commission’s commitment to the management of all wildlife—not just game species.”
Similarly, in August 1978, the Lehigh County Executive issued his first Executive Resolution No. 1 designating that county’s portion of the Kittatinny Ridge as the Lehigh County Raptor Migration Area.
The authors of the draft eagle management plan make no mention of either of these pioneering governmental designations for the Kittatinny Ridge. It is essential that the next draft of the plan include and discuss these early governmental designations, and explain their foundational importance to fostering increased public awareness and appreciation of the Kittatinny Ridge, and the extraordinary opportunities it provides for successful and enjoyable eagle and other raptor watching.
Raptor Migration Watch Site Management
As increasing numbers of people visit raptor migration watch sites for conservation, ecotourism, education, recreation, and/or research purposes the need increases for organized and structured management of these important wildlife viewing sites. That is especially true of such sites located on State Game Lands owned by the PGC. To shed some light on this aspect of Bald Eagle management, it is informative to compare raptor watch site management on a privately owned site and one owned by the PGC located on a State Game Land.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is the best known raptor migration watch site in North America, and one of the best known sites in the world. It is owned by the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, a non-profit organization, and impeccably managed and maintained by the professional staff employed by that organization. Little or no graffiti or other vandalism occurs at the site thanks to continual vigilance by Hawk Mountain staff despite some 70,000 people visiting the North and South Lookouts annually.
Bake Oven Knob, on the other hand, is a major raptor migration watch site owned by the PGC. It is located atop the Kittatinny Ridge on State Game Land 217 in Lehigh and Carbon Counties, upridge about 16 miles from Hawk Mountain. As already discussed, it is one of three essential autumn raptor migration monitoring sites on the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania (Bake Oven Knob, Hawk Mountain, and Waggoner’s Gap) producing data necessary to correctly understand autumn eagle and other raptor migrations along this internationally known and celebrated ridge, flight-line, and corridor. In 2010, the 50th consecutive year of Bald Eagle and other raptor migration counting and monitoring was completed by an intern and other volunteers from the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. During these past 50 years a large and import body of published data pertaining to raptor and other bird migrations was published in books, the ornithological literature, and elsewhere.
Regretfully major vandalism, especially paint graffiti, seriously degrades the rocks at Bake Oven Knob’s South Lookout and to a lesser extent at the North Lookout. Part of the problem rests with the fact that the famous Appalachian Trail has a trailhead at the East parking lot for Bake Oven Knob. Partying groups apparently commonly visit the site at night, and at other times, when hawk watchers and birders are not present to monitor such activities. Moreover, the PGC’s staff does little or nothing to stop such illegal activity resulting in major paint graffiti vandalism to the South Lookout and North Lookout. This graffiti seriously degrades the exceptional aesthetic qualities of the site which is one of the most spectacular atop the Kittatinny Ridge and the Lehigh Valley.
The PGC should be aware that hawk watchers using the raptor migration lookouts at Bake Oven Knob during autumn already monitor day use activities and routinely (sometimes daily) pick up large amounts of litter along the Appalachian Trail leading from the East parking lot to the summit of the Knob. This public service is provided at no cost to the PGC, and helps prevent even more unsightly litter from cluttering Bake Oven Knob with all manner of trash including bottles, paper, and other visitor debris.
I recommend that the PGC, perhaps in cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Police, make frequent and unannounced night visits to Bake Oven Knob during spring, summer, and autumn to stop all illegal partying, vandalism, and littering. The results of such raids should then be publicized in local newspaper, radio, and television media.
In addition, a thoughtful, coordinated joint effort to resolve the problem can also be developed between the PGC, the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, birding clubs, local hiking clubs, other nearby public service organizations, and possibly Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Removal of large amounts of paint already on the rocks at Bake Oven Knob’s South Lookout may be much more difficult to deal with because no water is available on the summit of the mountain to help remove paint from rocks. A careful evaluation of the situation, and how it can be dealt with effectively, is therefore necessary to devise a satisfactory and environmentally safe solution to the problem.
In conclusion, it is important that the PGC significantly enhances its management of all raptor migration watch sites located on State Game Lands in Pennsylvania. This will result in increased environmental preservation of the sites as well as increased quality of use experiences by the public.
With expanding development of industrial wind power in the United States, increasing numbers of utility-scale wind turbines are being proposed for and constructed on Appalachian and other ridges in Pennsylvania although, to date, no turbines are sited on the Kittatinny Ridge.
Despite guidelines produced by the PGC regarding siting of utility-scale wind turbines, most raptor conservationists and ornithologists continue to oppose placement of utility-scale and community scale wind turbines on our Appalachian Ridges, in other raptor and bird migration locations off-the-ridges, and in proximity to Bald Eagle nesting, roosting, and feeding locations. That is because eagles and other raptors, and other birds and bats, are placed at potential risk of being killed or injured by collisions with spinning wind turbine blades or their support pylons, and substantial habitat loss and fragmentation related to wind turbine facilities.
An example of an unacceptable placement of two utility-scale wind turbines near to six Bald Eagle nests and feeding areas occurred on Turkey Hill along the lower Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, PA. The PGC failed completely to prohibit this wind power facility from being constructed and being operated. Hence, Bald Eagles, Tundra Swans, migrating and resting shorebirds, and some other birds remain at potential risk of being maimed or killed by these two utility-scale wind turbines located adjacent to one of the most important ornithological areas in Pennsylvania.
Therefore, the PGC should prohibit placement of all proposed utility-scale or community scale wind turbines on all Appalachian Ridges in Pennsylvania, as well as within other raptor and bird migration locations off-the-ridges, and/or in close proximity to Bald Eagle nesting, roosting, and feeding locations. Putting Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles, other raptors, and other birds and bats at potential lethal risk in the misleading name of creating “green” energy (which wind power is not) is inconsistent with sound wildlife and environmental protection policy and hence is unacceptable.
1979 Birds of Prey Natural Area. Pennsylvania Game News, 50 (2): 40.
Blockus, Gary R.
2009 Move Aflight to Get National Designation for Kittatinny. July 14, 2009. The Morning Call, Allentown, PA
Heintzelman, Donald S. (Books)
1975 Autumn Hawk Flights: The Migrations in Eastern North America. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ.
1979a A Guide to Hawk Watching in North America. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA.
1979b Hawks and Owls of North America. Universe Books, New York, NY.
1983 The Birdwatcher’s Activity Book. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA.
1986 The Migrations of Hawks. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.
2004a Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ.
2004b Guide to Hawk Watching in North America. Revised and updated edition. Falcon Guide/The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT.
Heintzelman, Donald S. (Periodicals)
1963a Bake Oven Knob Hawk Flights. Atlantic Naturalist, 18: 154-158.
1963b Bake Oven Knob Migration Observations. Cassinia, 47: 39-40.
1969 Autumn Birds of Bake Oven Knob. Cassinia, 51: 11-32.
1982a How About Hawk Watching. Ranger Rick’s Nature Magazine, 16 (10): 6-10.
1982b Daily Rhythms of Migrating Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles in autumn at Bake Oven Knob, Pennsylvania. Cassinia, 59: 65-67.
1982c Hours of Observation at the Bake Oven Knob, Pennsylvania Hawk Lookout (1957-1982). Cassinia, 59: 78.
1982d Variations in Utilization of the Kittatinny Ridge in Eastern Pennsylvania in Autumn by Migrating Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles (1968-1981). American Hawkwatcher, 3: 1-4.
1983 An Interdisciplinary Comparison of Recreational Hawk Watching in Pennsylvania with Recreational Whale Watching in California. American Hawkwatcher, 7: 1-4.
1984 National Birds of Prey Conservation Week: America’s Potential New Raptor Conservation Tool. Eyas, 7 (1): 8.
1985 A Model Ecotourism and First October Hawkfest Plan for the Bake Oven Knob Area. Special Report. June 1985. Wildlife Information Center, Inc., Whitehall (now Slatington), PA
1989a Management and Protection of Hawk Watching Lookouts. Educational Hawkwatcher, 2: 1-4.
1989b Migrant Raptor Corridor Impacts from Increasing Land Development in the Kittatinny Birds of Prey Migration Area, Pennsylvania. Wildlife Conservation Report, 7: 1-4. Wildlife Information Center, Inc., Allentown (now Slatington), PA
1990 The 1957-1989 Bake Oven Knob, Pa., Autumn Hawk Migration Field Study: A 30 Year Review and Summary. American Hawkwatcher, 17: 1-16.
1992a Pioneering Raptor Programs at the Bake Oven Knob Hawk Watch and the Wildlife Information Center, Inc. American Hawkwatcher, 18: 8-13.
1992b Long Term Monitoring of Migrant Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Age Ratios and Their Use As Environmental Quality Indicators. American Hawkwatcher, 18: 14-18.
1992c Monitoring the Vital Signs of A Mountain: The Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project. Wildlife Activist, 15: 6-8.
1993a A Kittatinny-Shawangunk Interstate Park For the 21st Century Raptor Corridor. Wildlife Activist, 17: 4.
1993b Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project. Wild Earth, 3 (3): 45-47.
1996 A 36-Year Examination of Migrant Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Age Ratios at Bake Oven Knob, Lehigh County, Pa. American Hawkwatcher, 22: 5-6.
1997 A New Hawk Watching Site At Route 309 Atop the Kittatinny Ridge in Eastern Pennsylvania. American Hawkwatcher, 23: 11.
2000a Further Comments On Using the “Hawks Per Hour Rating Scale” to Standardize Hawk Migration Counts. International Hawkwatcher, 1: 14-15.
2000b Extreme Migration Dates, and Maximum Daily Raptor Counts, During Autumn At Bake Oven Knob, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania USA. International Hawkwatcher, 1: 19-21.
2002 Comments on the Landmark Numbering System Used at Bake Oven Knob and Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania USA. International Hawkwatcher, 5: 31-32.
2003 The Raptors’ Ridge. Birdscapes, Winter 2003 issue, page 34.
2005 Comments on the Components of the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor. International Hawkwatcher, 10: 19-20.
2006 Autumn Raptor Migration Counts At Route 309 and the Kittatinny Ridge in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania USA. International Hawkwatcher, 11: 11.
2007 A Selected Bibliography of Books and Articles Pertaining to Kittatinny Ridge Hawk Watches and The Kittatinny Raptor Corridor in Southeastern and Southcentral Pennsylvania. International Hawkwatcher, 12: 8-33.
2011 A Brief History of the Bake Oven Knob Autumn Hawk Count. American Hawkwatcher, 36: 11-16.
Heintzelman, Donald S. and Thomas V. Armentano
1964 Autumn Bird Migration at Bake Oven Knob, Pa. Cassinia, 48: 2-18.
Heintzelman, Donald S. (Newspaper OP ED pieces regarding the Kittatinny Ridge)
2006 Wind Generators Pose Threat to Migratory Birds. The Morning Call, Allentown, PA. June 22, 2006.
2007 Raptor Flyway Deserves Broad Protections. The Morning Call, Allentown, PA. Aug. 22, 2007.
2009 National Treasure Deserves Federal Recognition. The Morning Call, Allentown, PA. April 2, 2009.
2010 Proposed PPL-Turkey Hill Wind Farm is Not for the Birds. The Morning Call, Allentown, PA. May 6, 2010.
Kunkle, Dan R.
2002 Bake Oven Knob Autumn Hawk Count Manual. Wildlife Information Center, Inc. (now Lehigh Gap Nature Center), Slatington, PA
About Donald S. Heintzelman. . .
Donald S. Heintzelman is Vice-President, Pennsylvania for Save the Eagles International. He is an avid hawk watcher and professional ornithologist with a special interest in raptors. Since 1956, he has studied hawk migrations at Bake Oven Knob and elsewhere along the famous Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania. During the past 50+ years his field experience also was focused on Tundra Swans at pre-migratory staging areas along the Susquehanna River and at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Pennsylvania, and other wildlife throughout the world. Earlier in his career he served as Associate Curator of Natural Science at the William Penn Memorial Museum (The State Museum of Pennsylvania) and Curator of Ornithology at the New Jersey State Museum. Later, he was ornithologist on board the ecotourism ship M. S. Lindblad Explorer on expeditions to Amazonia, the Antarctic, and the Galapagos Islands. He also co-founded the Wildlife Information Center, Inc. A wildlife conservationist, author, and photographer, Heintzelman traveled widely in North America, the West Indies, South America, the Falkland and Galapagos Islands, the Antarctic, East Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago photographing and studying birds and other wildlife. He was one of the cinephotographers serving as lecturers on the National Audubon Society’s former Audubon Wildlife Films series. He is the author of 22 published books, several of which are pioneering landmark volumes about hawk migrations and hawk watching, and general birding. Several of his more recent books include Guide to Hawk Watching in North America, Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America, and The Complete Backyard Birdwatcher’s Home Companion. Heintzelman’s scientific articles have appeared in leading ornithology magazines, and his nontechnical articles and photographs have been published in ActionLine, Defenders, National Wildlife, Organic Gardening, and Ranger Rick’s Nature Magazine. Until recently, he wrote a nature column for several Pennsylvania newspapers. He lives in the rural countryside in southeastern Pennsylvania.
>> Autor: Mark Duchamp (29/03/2011)
>> Fuente: Donald Heintzelman
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