Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) announced the establishment of Cherry Valley as a National Wildlife Refuge as the first parcel of land was acquired for the refuge. Congressman Kanjorski also participated in the dedication of the refuge. Mary and Dominick Sorrenti of Sorrenti's Cherry Valley Vineyards in Stroudsburg sold 185 acres of land within the refuge boundary to the federal government to begin the acquisition. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will work to purchase more land within the refuge boundary. The establishment of the refuge finalizes a more than six year effort in which Congressman Kanjorski initially met with local groups in Monroe County about Cherry Valley, and introduced and passed legislation calling for a study of the 20,466 acre region. The legislation and study led to the approval of the refuge by the FWS in 2008. The refuge is the first National Wildlife Refuge established in the Northeast in nearly a decade. It is just the third National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania, and the first since 1972.
"Establishing Cherry Valley as a National Wildlife Refuge is a goal that I have worked towards for many years, and I owe the great people of Cherry Valley my gratitude for first introducing me to this initiative and for their dedication to help protect the area," said Congressman Kanjorski. "The deep grassroots support for this initiative has been overwhelming. It is because of the Friends of Cherry Valley and the many other residents that I worked to pass legislation that made the refuge possible."
Congressman Kanjorski added, "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and many others have long been key pieces of this initiative and have been instrumental in establishing the refuge. Because of this refuge, people living in Monroe County for generations to come will have the opportunity to experience an untouched environment that will continue to remain preserved for years to come."
"I would like to sincerely thank Congressman Kanjorski for his support over the years and helping the Friends of Cherry Valley's achieve one of its goals," said Debra Schuler, President of Friends of Cherry Valley. "For years, the Congressman has been dedicated to making this project a reality. I cannot even begin to describe how much we greatly appreciate his help and support. I also thank the Sorrenti's for selling some of their land so that it is now part of the refuge, and I deeply encourage more conservation-minded landowners to do the same."
"We are incredibly pleased and honored to provide the first piece of land that will become part of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge," said Mary Sorrenti. "Just as many residents in the area have been concerned about preserving this area, my husband and I want to do what we can to help establish the refuge. Without Congressman Kanjorski's assistance in creating the refuge, this end goal would not have been possible. As a family, we have grown up with the most incredible wildlife, and it is a dream come true to be able to save the wildlife and environment in the area, including Cherry Creek."
In May 2004, Congressman Kanjorski met with representatives of Friends of Cherry Valley, Monroe County, and The Nature Conservancy about the possibility of creating a national wildlife refuge in the Cherry Valley area.
After speaking with these groups, Congressman Kanjorski and Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced H.R. 5232, the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge Study Act, at the overwhelming request of the communities in Monroe County. The legislation authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to conduct a study of Cherry Valley to determine if it should be included in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Congressman Kanjorski then testified in support of the study at a May 2006 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans. The bill passed and was enacted on October 17, 2006.
The study worked to identify priority lands and waters for possible acquisition, determine an estimated cost, establish a boundary that would be fewer than 30,000 acres, and assess the conservation benefits of a wildlife refuge. The FWS concluded that six endangered species live in Cherry Valley, and that the area is home to 80 species of regional or national concern. The FWS released the results of its study on October 2008 recommending the creation of an over 20,000 acre national wildlife refuge in Cherry Valley. After reviewing the study's findings, in December 2008, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service decided to approve the establishment of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In 2009, Congress, with Congressman Kanjorski's support, appropriated $750,000 to help purchase land in the refuge.
There are currently two other National Wildlife Refuges in Pennsylvania. Erie National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1959 and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum was established in 1972.