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Shapiro Administration Secures Sentinel Landscape Designation for Kittatinny Ridge in the Eastern Pennsylvanian Appalachian Mountains, Furthering Conservation Efforts and Military Readiness

05/15/2024

​The 1.9 million acres, anchored by Fort Indiantown Gap and Letterkenny Army Depot, are key to military readiness, and the protection of rare wildlife and clean water and air.

Harrisburg, PA -- The Shapiro Administration announced today one of the most biodiverse regions in eastern North America, Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge, has been designated a Sentinel Landscape.

Founded in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of the Interior, the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership’s mission is to strengthen military readiness, conserve natural resources, bolster agricultural and forestry economies, increase public access to outdoor recreation, and enhance resilience to climate change.

Being designated as a sentinel landscape means federal agencies, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations come together to work with willing landowners and land managers to advance sustainable, mutually beneficial land-use practices around military installations.

Land and natural resources within the landscape boundary could be protected through conservation easements with landowners or receive priority consideration for participation in grant and assistance programs so farms can keep farming and wildlands stay wild.

Kittatinny Ridge is now one of 18 designated Sentinel Landscapes in the nation. 

The title will help fortify existing conservation efforts, protecting the natural habitat and the training missions of the Pennsylvania National Guard and air and missile defense at Letterkenny Army Depot.

Additionally, the 50 different federal, state, local, and private entities who helped secure the designation will continue to work together to pursue funding opportunities for the landscape, to continue to protect the robust natural resources in the area, and to make sure Fort Indiantown Gap remains a leading military installation.

Map of Kittatinny Ridge Sentinel Landscape covering parts of Berks, Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Lebanon, Lehi

All of the land within the white and black border is covered by this designation.

“Fort Indiantown Gap is home to the Pennsylvania National Guard and serves as one of the most active training centers for the National Guard and our armed forces -- and the Sentinel Landscape designation cements its status as a critically important area for our national security,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “My Administration is grateful for the support of our federal partners in protecting Kittatinny Ridge and the surrounding land and ensuring it will be sustained for years to come. Not only does this designation help strengthen our national defense, but it will also ensure we can continue to preserve our natural resources, encourage outdoor recreation, and support Pennsylvania farmers.”

Federal, state, and local governments own about 17 percent of the landscape.

Private landowners hold most of the land.

The new Kittatinny Ridge Sentinel Landscape designation will assist in defining zoning and protecting land to the east, south, and west of Fort Indiantown Gap.

“Home to headquarters, Pennsylvania National Guard, Fort Indiantown Gap is the busiest National Guard training facility in the nation,” said Major General Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “This designation assists in protecting critical land and air space our service members and civilian partners train in, while demonstrating our commitment to preserving our natural resources and farmland.”

The Kittatinny Ridge also plays a critical role in Pennsylvania’s rural economy.

Following a Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant in 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has led a $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service grant-funded project focused on preserving and stewarding farms near and along the Kittatinny Ridge.

To date, more than 2,200 acres of land have been protected through this effort, and the project is ongoing. 

“Every farm that commits to conservation or preservation secures Pennsylvania’s future, safeguarding productive farmland for generations to come,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “The designation as a sentinel landscape isn’t just about present advantages; it’s an investment in the enduring resilience and prosperity of our farms and the agricultural economy of tomorrow.”

“In a study conducted by the Nature Conservancy, the Kittatinny Ridge was determined to be the most climate resilient landscape in Pennsylvania, providing an unbroken area for plants and animals to move to higher elevations as the climate gets increasingly warmer and habitats change,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.

Dunn noted that programs such as light pollution reduction methods serve a dual purpose in this case by enhancing military training night operations as well as making the habitat in these areas safer for birds and insects that rely on dark nights. 

Speaking of birds, the Kittatinny Ridge is designated as an Important Bird Area and serves as a premier raptor migration corridor in the northeastern United States, according to Scott Bearer, Chief Land Manager for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Letterkenny Army Depot is also the location of the Game Commission’s recent reintroduction of the bobwhite quail.

“These wildlife species are among the many that will benefit from sentinel landscape designation,” Bearer said.

Private landowners who want to participate in these programs will not only be helping the environment but also supporting our military in keeping this country secure.

More information on the Kittatinny Ridge Sentinel Landscape can be found at DCNR’s Kittatinny Ridge Sentinel Landscape Story Map or at the Kittatinny Ridge Sentinel Landscape web page.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Angela Watson, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
                                      Shannon Powers, Department of Agriculture
                                      Travis Lau, Pennsylvania Game Commission
                                      Wesley Robinson, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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