Brett Mosiers Knob 1400 00138

Climate-Resilient Lands Added to Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Image Credit: Brett Cole

BUSHKILL, PA — April 20, 2016—A major victory toward long-term protection of the Delaware River Watershed has been realized with the addition of three new properties to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, further expanding the world-class park. And now, amid rising concern about the damaging effects of climate change, a “Resilience Analysis” conducted by the Open Space Institute has captured and inventoried the entire park’s critical role as a regional haven for wildlife and natural moderator of flooding and drought.

The properties—Mosiers Knob, Milford Glen and Rosenkrans—were secured for the National Park Service by the Trust for Public Land, The Conservation Fund, the Open Space Institute, and other conservation partners. Totaling 722 acres, all three contain land deemed “highly resilient” by the Open Space Institute, based on cutting-edge climate analysis derived from the land’s complex geography and geology.

“Many people don’t realize that the Delaware Water Gap, in addition to being an amazing outdoors escape, is a linchpin landscape that will help protect the broader region as the climate changes,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president of the Open Space Institute. “Our analysis demonstrates the important role the park plays in facilitating adaption to climate change. The study can also can help raise public awareness about climate change’s effects, and how we can best respond.”

According to Superintendent John J. Donahue, “Preserving these highly resilient parcels of land is part of the park’s Climate Change Response Plan which states that we will collaborate with other agencies and institutions to employ the best available climate science and we will take action to ensure the parks’ ability to recover from climate-related habitat damage.”

“Resilience” refers to a place’s natural ability to recover from unpredictable disturbances. As a critical wildlife corridor connecting the northern and southern Appalachian regions in the midst of heavy development, the park’s resilient landscapes give a wide range of species area to move in response to shifts in temperature and moisture under climate change. Moreover, forests and other natural features on the property retain excess rainwater, preventing extreme run-offs and reducing damage from flooding and drought on downriver businesses and residents.

According to the Open Space Institute’s analysis, derived from science developed by The Nature Conservancy, 56 percent of the park (more than 31,000 acres) scores above-average for resilience, making it a natural stronghold whose complex and well-connected physical features will provide refuge for wildlife and mitigate extreme weather effects such as drought and flood. Likewise, 60 percent of the park (nearly 34,000 acres) is composed of critical geology types that are relatively unprotected across the Northeast, among other findings.

The Open Space Institute also included the three newly-added properties in the resilience analysis. They are:

Mosiers Knob, near Shawnee, PA, by the south end of the park not far from the dramatic Water Gap itself, is a 548-acre, mostly forested area with rolling and steep topography culminating in 1,120-foot point (the “Knob”). Once threatened with resort development until its purchase by The Conservation Fund and the Trust for Public Land—who were supported by partners including the William Penn Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through grants administered by the Open Space Institute—it lies almost directly in the mid-section of the Delaware River’s 300-mile-long corridor, along an area that is designated as a National Scenic River and home to several rare species of wildlife.

Milford Glen, near Milford, PA, sits close to Milford Beach and the historic home of renowned conservationist Gifford Pinchot. Acquired by The Conservation Fund, with support from partners including the William Penn Foundation through a grant from the Open Space Institute, it spans 39 entirely forested acres. It is bisected by the Sawkill Creek, classified as an Exceptional Value stream, and provides critical habitat for threatened species as well as a direct link between the town of Milford and park hiking trails.

Rosenkrans (also known as Walpack), in Walpack, NJ, sits near the middle of the park close to the River Bend campsite and was formerly an undeveloped inholding until The Conservation Fund obtained it, with support from partners such as the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through a grant administered by the Open Space Institute, in 2014. At 135 acres with 3,600 feet of frontage on the Delaware River, Rosenkrans is a textbook example of resilience, with a rolling topography of open fields, small, steep forested areas and a 20-acre wetland complex that connects to the river. The property was purchased from the Rosenkrans family, which has continuously owned the land since the late 1600s, through twelve succeeding generations of family members.

“Almost five million people visit this special place every year, so this is a victory on multiple levels,” said Greg Socha, project manager for The Trust for Public Land. “It will provide more access for families and it also protects critical habitat for the animals that live here. This is a good example of our mission of protecting land for people.”

“Permanent protection of resilient landscapes is an effective tool in mitigating the effects of climate change” said Kyle Shenk, Pennsylvania State Director for The Conservation Fund. “We are pleased to contribute to this partnership, and the Resiliency Analysis ensures that conservation investment is strategically directed to the most resilient properties.”

Visitors to the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, spanning New Jersey and Pennsylvania and bisected by the Delaware River, have long enjoyed the scenic vistas from its mountain ridges and the recreational opportunities afforded by its woodlands and waterways.

These same landscapes also make it ideal habitat for resident plants and animals, including rare species such as walking fern and native orchids, wide-ranging iconic animals such as black bear, bobcat, and fisher. It is also an important migration stop for hawks and songbirds. 

On May 16, NPS and OSI climate scientists will present a panel discussion for local conservation leaders, elected officials, park partners, and other interested parties. (For more information about this presentation contact Kathleen Sandt at [email protected]).

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