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Due to the Cornonavirus pandemic, we have been forced to cancel our annual banquet, along with other activities. Please keep birding, though!

Due to the Cornonavirus pandemic, we have been forced to cancel our annual banquet. If you've already signed up, Laura Jackson will be returning your registration fee shortly.

Our other events in March and April have also been cancelled, with the exception (so far) of the Earth Week Birding Classic, which may still go ahead in some form if social distancing protocols can be maintained. Check back here for updates. And don't stop going outside! As the Associate Editor of Audubon magazine, Andy McGlashen, recently pointed out, Birding Is the Perfect Activity While Practicing Social Distancing.

A CDC computer rendering of the surface of SARS-CoV-2
A CDC computer rendering of the surface of SARS-CoV-2 (public domain)
Some final food for thought: This pandemic does illustrate the ecological perils of global trade. Our native forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other habitats are being overwhelmed by invaders every bit as deadly and insidious to other creatures as the Cornonavirus is to us, whether you're talking about native ladybird beetles displaced by the harlequin ladybird, spring beauties smothered by Japanese stiltgrass, or natural forest openings filling with Ailanthus. Bringing back American manufacturing, if done in a cleaner, greener way, would not only shorten supply chains, help workers, and protect the public, but it might also provide some relief for natural ecosystems already stressed by climate change, habitat fragmentation, pesticides, and so many other assaults.

The Juniata Valley Audubon Society is cancelling our upcoming field trips in April.  This includes the Greenwood Furnace Adventure on April 4 and the Trillium Hike on April 18.  

We feel this is necessary for the safety of our membership and the general public with regards to the coronavirus pandemic.

Please check the JVAS website for future updates.

~ Susan Braun, Field Trips Chair

Due to concerns over the Coronavirus, the JVAS Board has decided to cancel the Tuesday, March 17 chapter meeting.

Due to concerns over the Coronavirus, the JVAS Board has decided to cancel the Tuesday, March 17 chapter meeting.

As of now, the April 21 banquet is still scheduled, but we will assess the situation in late March and send out an update in early April confirming or canceling the banquet.

Please do not send any more banquet reservations until we send out the update in early April. I will refund payments to those who have already paid if we do cancel the banquet.

Also, please note that the Bedford conference scheduled for Saturday, "Managing forests and Wildlife in a Changing World," has been postponed, according to the WOSA website.

Stay well and stay outside as much as you can!

~ Laura Jackson

Please send comments on the Draft Master Plan to let the USACE know that you support their decision, which is based on sound science versus a desire for economic gain.

Please send comments on the Raystown Lake Draft Master Plan (pages 8-125, 126).

To send comments, go to www.nab.usace.army.mil/raystown-master-plan-revision/ and scroll to the bottom of the first page. Fill in the form or email the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The form will ask you to "select the section of the draft Plan your comment refers to." Choose "Summary of Recommendations."

Please let the Army Corps know that you support their decision, which is based on sound science versus a desire for economic gain. Comment deadline is Dec. 7, 2019.

Use the following excerpts from the Plan as talking points to support the draft Master Plan:

The draft plan states that, "The proportion of public comments received specifically opposing the proposal to develop and/or reclassify the Hawn’s Bridge area was significant. This indicates that expressed public desires at this time do not support the reclassification to High Density Recreation." Justification for this decision was based on factors that changing the area to “high density recreation” would potentially negatively affect the following:

  1. Proximity to Bat Conservation Area
  2. Impact on fisheries
  3. Proximity to Shale Barren area
  4. Impact on hunting
  5. Impact on timber resources or tree cover
  6. Topographic impacts to infrastructure construction

The USACE applied objectives in the classification analysis with the following results:

  • The proposal would support the objective to identify and evaluate increased opportunities to provide and implement education and outreach on the missions of the RLP.
  • It would not preserve the unique scenic beauty and aesthetics of the project by minimizing development and maintaining the undisturbed natural buffer between the shoreline and all future development.
  • It would not achieve recreation goals in conjunction with the USACE Recreation Strategic Plan and the Pennsylvania SCORP.
  • It would not actively manage and conserve fish, wildlife, and special status species or enhance biodiversity.
  • In addition, it would not support goals to manage invasive species, promote forest health, or prevent erosion and sedimentation.

There is already pushback from the developer who wants to turn Hawn’s Bridge area into a resort. Janet Chambers, spokesperson for the proposed resort, is quoted in a recent issue of the Huntingdon Daily News. Chambers maintains that the Corps ignored the WIIN Act, which instructed the Corps to increase recreation areas. She also is quoted as stating that any conflicting issues can be "worked out."

Although we need renewable energy infrastructure to combat climate change, surely there are more appropriate sites where less environmental damage will occur. Reclaimed strip mines, brown fields, and developed areas should be considered for renewable energy projects, not forested mountains that serve as important habitats for species of concern, migratory corridors, and sources of clean water.

Introduction

While renewable energy projects are an important step away from fossil fuel consumption and have great potential to mitigate climate change impacts by reducing carbon, they must be sited properly. In Pennsylvania, the best wind resources are at higher elevations, so wind turbines are most often sited on forested mountains instead of degraded lands. Joseph Kiesecker, Lead Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, points out in his book, “Energy Sprawl Solutions,” that it is possible to balance energy needs and conservation, but we need careful planning, or we could trade one crisis for another: “land-use change and conflict.” His research shows that wind projects should be built on degraded lands, instead of forested mountains, in order to protect critical wildlife and their habitats.

Such is the case for Dunning/Evitt’s Mountain, a forested ridge in Bedford County that contains core forest habitat for several species of conservation need. CPV Kettle Wind, LLC is in the early permitting stages of an industrial wind turbine project proposed for the top of Dunning/Evitt’s Mountain. The turbines would be constructed just south of Rt. 869 and could extend for over 5 miles along the top of the mountain in East St. Clair, South Woodbury, and Bedford Townships. Dunning/Evitt’s Mountain is quite narrow in areas, so a cut and fill construction project would most likely involve:
a. removal of trees on the top of the mountain
b. blasting of bedrock to create rubble
c. bulldozing and compacting the rubble to create a shelf wide enough to support wind turbine pads and roads
d. deep sedimentation ponds below each wind turbine to control stormwater runoff – these ponds would be filled with permeable soil obtained off-site to slow runoff
e. trenches between turbines for electric cables
f. a swath of trees removed down the mountain so an above-ground transmission line can be run from on top of the mountain to the substation along Black Bear Lane
...continue reading "Environmental Concerns and Potential Impacts of a Proposed Wind Project on Dunning/Evitt’s Mountain in Bedford County"

We are proud to announce that JVAS is sponsoring a solar rooftop co-op called Solar United Neighbors (SUN).

From the September-October 2019 issue of The Gnatcatcher.

It’s been a hot summer, so aren’t you interested in finding out how to capture all that solar power? We are proud to announce that JVAS is sponsoring a solar rooftop co-op called Solar United Neighbors (SUN)! One of our members who lives in Cambria County is already part of SUN with 28 solar panels on her roof. We also applaud other members who have solar. You may wonder why a bird group like JVAS is sponsoring solar, but just remember that rooftop solar helps to preserve important bird habitat since it reduces the demand for fossil fuels.

We are working with Henry McKay, SUN’s program director in Pennsylvania. Henry writes,

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights. We'd like to bring together individuals and organizations in and around Blair County who are interested in helping to launch and promote a local solar co-op.

Solar co-ops are nonprofit programs that make it easier for homeowners and small businesses to go solar. People interested in going solar join the solar co-op, learn about solar technology and incentives, receive unbiased technical guidance from Solar United Neighbors, and pool their collective buying power to get a better deal on a solar installation. Solar co-ops are a powerful tool to increase solar adoption and build a stronger movement of solar advocates.

Solar co-ops are administered by Solar United Neighbors but require the assistance of motivated individuals and local partners to spread the word in the target communities and drive sign-ups. Right now, we are trying to determine if there is enough interest and support from local organizations in the Blair County area to launch a successful solar co-op.

Watch for a planning meeting announcement later this fall.

Thank you for your continued support!

Catie

More information on Solar United Neighbors: https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/pennsylvania/

To assess the raptor migration on Bald Eagle Mountain, the project will conduct a single full-season fall hawkwatch from September through December 2019.
Bald Eagle Mountain attracts soaring of all types. (Photo: Dhaluza at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Bald Eagle Mountain is the western-most ridge in the Ridge and Valley physiographic province, part of a ridge system that continues to the southwest with Brush Mountain, then Canoe Mountain, Lock Mountain, Dunning Mountain, Evitts Mountain, and Wills Mountain in Pennsylvania, continuing down through the Appalachians as far as northern Georgia. Historical part-time hawk counts on Bald Eagle Mountain indicate its promise as a raptor migration pathway, particularly for golden eagles and red-tailed hawks. Based upon those historical counts, Bald Eagle Mountain was named a Pennsylvania Important Bird Area, but we don’t really know the full extent of its value to raptor migration.

High counts of these species in the fall at the Franklin Mountain (NY) hawk watch on northwest winds are often followed by high counts of these species several days later at Allegheny Front hawkwatch near Central City if the wind turns to be out of the east or southeast. We think that many of these birds are using Bald Eagle Mountain or the Allegheny Front to get there. Further, we suspect that the Allegheny Front hawkwatch tallies only a fraction of the migrant raptors that may use this migration pathway, because that site is highly dependent upon E/SE winds.

To assess the raptor migration on Bald Eagle Mountain, the project will conduct a single full-season fall hawkwatch from September through December 2019. To assist with full-time coverage, Juniata Valley Audubon has formed a partnership with the State College Bird Club and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center to support a paid full-time hawk counter. We anticipate that this project will document the considerable importance of Bald Eagle Mountain as a raptor migration pathway.

You can help support this effort by signing up to participate in our Earth Week Birding Classic, which will be held from April 21 to 28, 2019. Registration is free. The goal is for teams in seven different categories to count as many species of birds as possible over a 24-hour period any time during the week beginning on April 21 at 12 noon and ending at 12 noon on April 28. This non-profit event is co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona and Juniata Valley Audubon Society. Pledges that team members garner this year will support the Bald Eagle Mountain Fall Hawkwatch project. Teams of three or more (two or more for Senior citizens) will count birds in Blair and surrounding counties, and prizes will be awarded during the closing ceremony at the Slep Center on the Penn State Altoona campus immediately following the event at 1 pm. Registration deadline is April 14. To register and for more information, please contact Catie Farr at [email protected]

Check the events section of the website for a freshly updated listing of all our upcoming programs and field trips, including birding hikes, wildflower rambles, and more. The banquet this year will include a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of JVAS's founding in 1969! And don't miss the 4th annual Earth Week Birding Classic, our major fundraiser for conservation, held in cooperation with the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona.

There will be at least one other event which we don't have a firm date for yet. If you missed seeing the film Cathedral: The Fight to Save the Ancient Hemlocks of Cook Forest at our December meeting, we plan to offer another screening in March. Stay tuned.

a hand holding out a credit card

Juniata Valley Audubon Society will be 50 years old in 2019, so I guess it's understandable why we're not always an early adopter of the hot new trends. But more and more of our members, especially the younger ones, have been agitating for the ability to join and renew online with a credit card, so at long last we have complied. Go to the Join or Renew page and scroll down for the membership options.

Your security is paramount, so we've had an SSL certificate installed on our server (thanks, Nittany Web Works!) and we're using Paypal as our payment gateway. But you don't need a Paypal account, just a major credit or debit card.

We've tried to keep things as simple as possible, so instead of asking you to fill out a separate form, we will simply gather your email and postal address from Paypal, and will assume that you prefer to receive the paper edition of the Gnatcatcher unless you follow up with an email requesting otherwise.

The one big advantage of joining or renewing online, aside from the obvious convenience of saving on postage and avoiding the hassle of writing out a check, is that you won't have to worry about forgetting to renew next year: it will automatically renew unless you cancel it. Better for you, better for us.

We assume that, as a member of JVAS, you'd like to receive occasional emails about club activities and conservation issues, but there will be opt-out links in those emails so you can remove yourself from the list if it becomes too much. (We're planning a complete revamp of our email communications system in the New Year.) Please be assured, however, that we will not share your data with anyone else for any reason.

There are, of course, limits to our embrace of modernity: we have no plans to accept Bitcoin payments at this time. Sorry, nerds.