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.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society has partnered with Lenca Farms to bring you the highest quality shade-grown coffee direct from Honduras. The farms support many species of native birds, as well as wintering Neotropical migrants.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society has partnered with Lenca Farms to bring you the highest quality shade-grown coffee direct from Honduras. The coffee farmers retain the forest canopy above the small coffee trees and use organic practices so the farms support many species of native birds, as well as wintering Neotropical migrants. Research by Cornell University shows that this type of coffee farm provides important habitat and food for many birds.
Lenca Farms Coffee is a medium roast with flavors of chocolate and cardamom. Because it is high elevation, it is low in caffeine. You will find the coffee to be very rich and smooth.
Lenca Farms is small group of coffee farmers in the high mountainous region of Marcala, in southwest Honduras. The farmers produce shade-grown coffee using organic practices, thus producing specialty coffee of the highest quality. Many species of Neotropical songbirds spend part of the winter in these shade coffee farms, as JVAS members have been able to verify for themselves.
One of the farmers, Emilio Garcia, is a fourth generation coffee grower who started importing the Lenca Farms coffee into the US in 2013. Lenca Farms offers direct trade with US roasters and guarantees that their specialty-grade coffee comes "From Our Farms to Your Door." Since the coffee harvest is from January to March, the green coffee is brought to the US in early summer, ensuring high-quality fresh coffee.
About the Roasters
Emilio Garcia is a partner with Jeff Myers, who started Abednego Coffee Roasters in 2008 in Chambersburg with the purpose that "we would make the world a better place." Emilio Garcia and Jeff Myers offer the highest quality coffee that is air roasted in small batches, ensuring our customers get freshly roasted coffee. They support sustainable coffee production through direct trade from small coffee growers. They also donate supplies and food to schools in Honduras, since they know that learning empowers children to rise above poverty.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society's Policy regarding wind development states that,
Industrial wind development on forested ridges creates a suite of ecological problems that outweigh the benefits of a renewable energy source. Since many birds and bats use our ridges as migratory pathways, tall towers with spinning blades cause almost certain mortality. In addition, large clearings for turbines and an extensive network of roads through forests create forest fragmentation, which is also a negative impact on forest birds and bats. For these reasons, as well as many more, the Juniata Valley Audubon Society opposes industrial wind development on forested ridges.
Specifically, if the first of two wind turbine applications proposed by Atlantic Wind, LLC are approved, up to 37 industrial wind turbines would be constructed, impacting three forested mountains in the Wild Creek Watershed: Stony, Pohopoco, and Call Mountains. These turbines, with their associated turbine pads and wide road clearings, will cause extensive forest fragmentation resulting in up to 292 acres of cleared forest.
If the second application is approved, the project will contain 28 turbines in linear rows impacting Pohopoco and Call Mountains, with up to 203 acres of forest being cleared. We know that roads and clearings through forests invite invasive plant species, more avian predators, and more ATVs. None of these are beneficial to forests and their inhabitants.
Wild Creek Watershed produces some of the cleanest water in the nation and is designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as an Exceptional Value Watershed. It is the undeveloped forest that makes this water so clean. Additionally, this water sustains thousands of people and businesses in the Bethlehem area.
Not only do the extensive tracts of forests provide clean water, they also provide homes and sustenance to a number of birds that are species of special concern in Pennsylvania: the Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, Whip-poor-will, Brown Creeper, Wood Thrush, and Golden-winged Warbler breed in the Wild Creek Watershed. Birds that depend on vast forested acreage are also found in this watershed. In addition to the Wood Thrush, Pennsylvania has a global responsibility to provide large areas of unfragmented forest for the Scarlet Tanager since more than 19% of the population breeds in Pennsylvania.
The Wild Creek Watershed is located in the Appalachian Raptor Migration Corridor and partly within the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Migration Corridor. Raptors use the watershed as stopover sites during migration.
The forests found in the Wild Creek Watershed are some of the most rare and unique habitats in the world. The habitat areas are called Yellow Run Barrens, Pitch Pine Barrens, Hell Creek Barrens, and Pine Run Woods. The term, "barrens," is often misleading as people think it is an area bare of trees and other vegetation. These barrens are actually lush with vegetation, but the trees are stunted and don't grow as tall as in other forests. Yellow Run Barrens contains a scrub oak-heath-pitch pine natural community that is unique in Pennsylvania and should be maintained through prescribed fire. Pitch Pine Barrens is also unique and rare in the state. Hell Creek Barrens contains a Pennsylvania endangered and globally rare plant species of concern, while Pine Run Woods is a maple, oak forest and scrub oak Shrubland Natural Community.
In 2005, when The Nature Conservancy completed a Natural Areas Inventory of Carbon County [PDF], they noted that no threats or disturbances were present in the Wild Creek Watershed because the Bethlehem Authority protected almost the entire watershed.
The Nature Conservancy recommended,
Continued protection will not only serve to protect these important municipal water supplies into the future, but also provide critical open space and wildlife habitat. It will serve to benefit the bird species of special concern [Osprey] and, perhaps, attract additional nesting pairs to the lake. The plant species of concern would be harmed by a loss of overstory and reduction in water quality at this site.
Sadly, in 2013, the Bethlehem Authority leased thousands of acres in the Wild Creek Watershed to Atlantic Wind, LLC. If the project is built, most of the watershed will become an industrial zone for energy production.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society supports properly sited wind projects, but an industrial wind project in the Wild Creek Watershed is clearly inappropriate. We urge the Bethlehem Authority to focus on the generation of clean water and the protection of special habitats and species by protecting the forest.
A recent study, "Return on Environment," which was partly funded by Audubon Pennsylvania, shows the importance of undeveloped forests in Carbon County. To quote:
WE CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO PROTECT CARBON COUNTY’S OPEN SPACE
The first rule of ecology is that everything is connected to everything else. Whatever we do to natural habitats— good or bad, big or small—ripples through the economy. Simply stated, the loss of open space costs more than we know. Losing natural resources, like trees and good water quality, is a significant strategic choice. Natural systems provide a form of insurance or risk management. They work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and have been doing so for the last 10,000 years, free of charge.
Catie Farr, President
Juniata Valley Audubon Society
Juniata Valley Audubon Society supports the protection of the eastern shore of Raystown Lake, specifically the endangered shale barrens which include the one located on Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We request that Hawn's Bridge Peninsula be reclassified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area and that Terrace Mountain remain as a Low Density Recreation Area in the new Master Plan.
Submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers by Laura Jackson, Vice President, on behalf of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society.
To Whom it May Concern:
Please accept this letter as a formal comment submitted by the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, with over 300 members residing in Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon, Mifflin, and Centre Counties in central Pennsylvania. We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments to be considered in the development of the Raystown Lake Master Plan Revision.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS) recognizes the diverse recreational resources offered by the Raystown Lake, its economic development potential, the importance of the flood control, and its clean hydropower. More importantly, however, we value the significant amount of relatively undisturbed habitat: approximately 18,000 acres (84%) of the Raystown Lake Project is forested. Since Terrace Mountain provides a forested backdrop to much of the eastern lake shore, we know that sustainable forest management is key to maintaining not only the viewscape, but the quality of water in Raystown Lake. We commend the US Army Corps of Engineers on their work to maintain this important habitat, so vital to maintaining clean water and healthy fish and wildlife.
Furthermore, we applaud the Corps' efforts to establish a Bat Conservation Area on Terrace Mountain in the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula area to maintain roosting and foraging habitat for northern long-eared bats and Indiana bats, as well as other forest dwelling bat species. JVAS supports managing these areas to mimic old growth conditions, which will create better habitat for roosting bats.
Another type of habitat quite different from the forested expanses are the rare shale barrens that occur in the Raystown Lake Project Area. We understand that the shale barren communities in Bedford and Huntingdon counties are one of the most unusual, and also most endangered, ecosystems in Pennsylvania. They are few in number and small in acreage, but contain endemic plant species found only in this habitat. The eleven shale barrens in the Raystown Lake Project are each significantly important since they vary in geographical and environmental features, as well as types of flora and fauna. We appreciate the Corps' dedication to protecting them by designating them as "Natural Areas," which will be preserved in their natural state.
We ask that the Corps continue to protect the shale barrens as designated Natural Areas by placing total restriction of any development in the area, and protecting the steep slopes and fragile environment of the barrens areas from disturbance, except for scientific investigation. Especially important is the restriction of foot travel on the slope and prohibition of watercraft docking at the base of the cliffs.
We are concerned, however, that the 9-acre shale barrens on the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula is under threat from future development. In the 1994 Master Plan, the Corps pledged complete protection and did not agree to any development on the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We know that the current Master Plan update is considering changing the use of this area. In keeping with the Corp's pledge to protect one of Pennsylvania's rarest and most endangered habitats, we would like to emphasize that this complete protection will only occur if the entire Hawn's Bridge Peninsula is protected from development. The 1994 master plan emphasized protection of the eastern shore, which includes the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We feel the eastern shore and Terrace Mountain should remain protected.
The Shale Barrens are also designated as part of the Raystown Biological Diversity Area (BDA), a Natural Heritage Area documented by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in the Huntingdon County Natural Heritage Inventory. Within the strata of BDAs, Huntingdon County recognizes Hawn's Bridge Peninsula to be the highest ranking: an "Exceptional Biological Diversity Area." See map at end of letter.
Our request to protect Hawn's Bridge Peninsula from development is supported by many local residents, including the Coalition to Protect Hawn's Peninsula. It is important to note that our request to protect Hawn's Bridge Peninsula is also aligned with the Huntingdon County Comprehensive Plan, 2007 Supplement. Sadly, the businesses and organizations that are promoting development of Hawn's Bridge Peninsula are at odds with the Comprehensive Plan.
Although it is not regulatory, the Comprehensive Plan is an important guiding document for Huntingdon County as it contains, "A Vision for the 21st Century." The Elements of the Vision include, "protection of farmland, forest land, natural resources, and the environment," while emphasizing new development "in and around existing boroughs and villages." It further emphasizes developing "greenways along rivers and ridges."
This vision is further detailed in this excerpt, " The vast majority of land in the County will remain in productive private rural land uses such as agriculture, forestry, and recreation. A system of “Greenways” will be established along mountain ridges, streams, and rivers to protect water quality, to provide habitat for wildlife, to enhance recreational opportunities, and to protect scenic beauty. "
One policy supported in this Vision does include, "the development of a year-round, full-service resort at Raystown Lake." However, we ask that such development should not be along mountain ridges such as Terrace Mountain, or impact rare habitats like shale barrens. Such a resort at Raystown Lake should be on Army Corps property where development already occurs, not in an exceptional Biological Diversity Area like Hawn's Bridge Peninsula.
In conclusion, Juniata Valley Audubon Society supports the protection of the eastern shore of Raystown Lake, specifically the endangered shale barrens which include the one located on Hawn's Bridge Peninsula. We request that Hawn's Bridge Peninsula be reclassified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area and that Terrace Mountain remain as a Low Density Recreation Area in the new Master Plan.
The ecological evidence provided in the Huntingdon County Natural Heritage Inventory demands that the Hawn’s Bridge peninsula be designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area in the Master Plan Revision.
The Hawn's Bridge peninsula is part of the Raystown Dam Natural Heritage Area (Biological Diversity Area) identified in the Huntingdon County Natural Heritage Inventory. The Inventory characterizes such areas as "containing plants or animals of special concern at state or federal levels, exemplary natural communities, or exceptional native diversity." The Huntingdon County Natural Heritage Inventory was administered by the Huntingdon County Planning Commission and identifies and maps Huntingdon County’s most significant natural places. The study investigated plant and animal species and natural communities that are unique or uncommon in the county. It also explored areas important for general wildlife habitat and scientific study. The inventory is a tool for informed and responsible decision-making.
The area in which a marina and other facilities are proposed includes red cedar-mixed hardwood rich shale woodland, and Virginia pine - mixed hardwood shale woodland communities. These rare habitats support two plant species endemic to shale barrens: the shale barrens evening primrose (Oenothera argillocola) (PA Threatened) and Kate's mountain clover (Trifolium virginicum) (PA Endangered). Several invertebrate species associated with shale barrens and the surrounding xeric forest also are found there. These include the southern pine looper moth (Caripeta aretaria), the promiscuous angle (Semiothisa promisuata), and a noctuid moth (Properigea sp.)
According to the Huntingdon County Natural Heritage Inventory, "The shale barren communities and associated plant species depend upon the harsh conditions found on these steep, dry slopes where competition from other species is low. Disturbances that can lead to the introduction of exotic and aggressive species are one of the largest threats." The establishment of a marina and associated amenities on the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula would certainly cause the types of disturbances which the Inventory warns against.
In addition, the Hawn's Bridge Peninsula is clearly visible from the Hawn's Overlook and from the Allegrippis Trails. From an aesthetic viewpoint, converting the forested peninsula to an entertainment-oriented facility with a marina would create an eyesore.
Furthermore, Terrace Mountain, adjacent to the Hawn’s Bridge peninsula, should be designated as Low Density Recreation because it contains a Bat Conservation Area, the Terrace Mountain Trail, and steep topography that is unsuitable for development. Visitors to Raystown Lake value the wild nature of the eastern side of the lake. Development should be confined to the western side of the lake, which already has infrastructure to support it.
Therefore, for ecological and aesthetic reasons, I strongly support the designation of the Hawn's Bridge peninsula as an Environmentally Sensitive Area and the designation of Terrace Mountain as a Low Density Recreation area.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society is pleased to promote the Bird Habitat Recognition Program. A yard sign like the one above and a Habitat Discount card are included with your $25 donation to PA Audubon. Be sure to list Juniata Valley Audubon Society as the Audubon Chapter in your area.
No property size limits
Sign (see above) is included with registration! (9" x 12", Metal)
Homes, schools, businesses, parks, and public land can join
Help us promote Healthy Yards that are easy on birds, babies and bank accounts
Habitat Discount Card will help you save money at businesses across the state
Your Bird Habitat could qualify for a special award! Juniata Valley Audubon Society will award a certificate and $25 to one outstanding Bird Habitat in each of the following counties: Bedford, Blair, Centre, Cambria, and Huntingdon. To apply, contact JVAS VP Laura Jackson at email@example.com or call 814-652-9268. Remember, enter the Bird Habitat Program first.
Improving the quality of land for wildlife is the single most constructive step we can take to assist wild bird populations.
Stephen Kress, Audubon Biologist
It was an easy decision for the Board of Juniata Valley Audubon Society to present our 2017 Conservation Award to the Stephen Gerhart family who live a few miles south of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Although the Gerharts are not Audubon members, they embody the environmental ethics that characterize many Audubon members: love of the land; conservation of bird and other wildlife habitats; and the fortitude to stand up to big corporations that destroy forests without the landowner’s permission.
The Gerharts placed their 27-acre forested property in the Forest Stewardship Program about ten years ago, a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry program that helps landowners develop goals so their forest is sustainable and healthy for people and wildlife. It is a program intended to create a legacy for the Gerharts — or it did until two years ago, when the Gerharts got a knock on their door from a land agent, informing them that Sunoco Logistics planned to construct the Mariner East II pipeline under their property, including under their pond and through the forested wetlands. The Gerharts refused to take the money offered by Sunoco and to this day steadfastly refuse to accept any payment.
When I visited the Gerharts on Earth Day, Ellen showed us how Sunoco - without the Gerharts’ permission - cut trees in the riparian area of the stream and on the steep slopes adjacent to the wetlands. Sunoco claimed the trees were cut because the space was needed for a work area, but it is hard to imagine how workers would be able to use equipment on such a steep slope without extensive earth movement. The DEP file clearly states that, “support sites such as pipe/contractor yards, are to be sited on previously disturbed areas.”
The Gerhart family is just one of hundreds of families in Pennsylvania faced with property destruction and safety concerns caused by Sunoco’s plans to construct about 306 miles of pipeline across Pennsylvania. On February 13, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) approved the Chapter 105 and 102 pipeline permits for the project officially known as the PA Pipeline Project/Mariner East II. Almost 30,000 comments were sent to the DEP during the public participation process prior to that decision. Many of those comments were from landowners who were concerned about their family’s safety, since many miles of the pipeline will be located very close to schools and homes.
According to the DEP file, the Pipeline Project will transport up to 700,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids (propane, butane and ethane) from the Utica and Marcellus Shale formations in Ohio and western Pennsylvania for both domestic and international markets using two new pipelines that are mostly found in the existing right of way corridor for the current Mariner East pipeline system. The Project will supply propane at various exit routes across Pennsylvania and terminate in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania where fuels will be exported for international markets. The fact that domestic markets are included allowed Sunoco to obtain eminent domain, so affected families felt hopeless, and accepted the money offered by Sunoco.
What sets the Gerharts apart from many of the affected landowners is their continued resistance — they are still saying “NO.” Using similar tactics seen in western states to protect the redwoods and sequoias, Elise sat in a tree for two weeks in 2016, while nearby trees were cut all around her. Her mother, Ellen, who was not afraid to confront the workers face to face, was arrested and jailed for three days. Elise was criminally charged later. Fortunately, the disorderly conduct and contempt of court charges were eventually dropped against Ellen, Elise, and activist Alex Lotorto.
Sunoco claims the project disturbance will total 273 acres in Huntingdon County, causing extensive forest fragmentation. Although the three acres of disturbance at the Gerhart property doesn’t seem like much, it is symbolic of a greater concern: that of social injustice impacting rural families where the value of land and forests is worth far more than a few development dollars. Sunoco touts the potential for jobs and economic development opportunities, but rural landowners know that the environmental footprint of energy development grows bigger each year: pipelines, electric transmission lines, wind turbine projects, fracking wells, industrial solar projects — all of these energy-related development projects will continue to expand while open space contracts. Cities like Philadelphia plan to benefit from the pipeline project, but it is at the expense of rural forests and families.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society applauds the Gerhart family for trying to protect their property from industrial development.
Army Corps issues decision addressing recreational development proposal on Raystown Lake Project
RAYSTOWN LAKE, Pennsylvania - After a rigorous review process in accordance with federal policy and regulations, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Baltimore District, has determined they cannot further consider authorization of Lancer Resources, L.P. (Lancer) recreational development's proposal in the Hawn's Bridge area of the Raystown Lake Project because it is not consistent with the current Raystown Lake Master Plan (MP).
The current MP for Raystown Lake dates back to 1994 and placed an emphasis on protecting the southeast shore, which includes the Hawn's Bridge area. Existing Corps policy reflects that the effective lifespan of a MP is 15- 25 years. Additionally, legislation contained in the recent Water Infrastructure Improvement of the Nation Act (WIIN), Section 1309, signed into law December 2016, requires the MP for the Raystown Lake be updated.
Col. Ed Chamberlayne, commander, Baltimore District, stated that re-entering the MP process would allow the Corps to address any proposed development. "We will immediately seek funding, personnel, and other resources to begin the master plan update," said Chamberlayne. "The update will include public input at appropriate times and preparation of corresponding National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation."
Once funds are made available, the process to complete updates to the MP could take between 18-24 months.
JVAS will be sure to assist in providing input as the plan revision process proceeds.
We planned to spend three weeks this past January in Honduras on a research expedition to two locations in the remote eastern portion of the country. Our goals were to work with local conservation pioneers and preserves to survey and promote the wide diversity of bird life in these special yet threatened regions.
Note: Ian Gardner was inspired to organize the CACAO 2017 Expedition after participating in our Birding for Conservation trip to Honduras in February, 2016. This initiative is the first research project under the auspices of the newest JVAS Committee: Partners in Neotropical Bird Conservation. Contact Laura Jackson if you would like to get involved in conservation and education projects focusing on migratory birds.
Cacao is the Honduran colloquial name for the threatened Red-throated Caracara, a species of raptor that has nearly disappeared from Central America in the past few decades. It is also the acronym for a small but passionate cooperative of multi-national conservationists. We planned to spend three weeks this past January in Honduras on a research expedition to two locations in the remote eastern portion of the country, Reserva Biologica Rus Rus in Gracias a Dios and Parque Nacional Botaderos in Olancho. Our goals were to work with local conservation pioneers and preserves to survey and promote the wide diversity of bird life in these special yet threatened regions. We were able to meet our funding goal for the trip thanks to the support of many individuals and several Audubon Society chapters like JVAS.
We knew beforehand that these federal lands, Reserva Biologica Rus Rus and Parque Nacional Botaderos, were protected by title alone. During our expedition we learned why. Both areas are remote, at least a very rough 4 hour drive from the closest ICF facility (Instituto de Conservacion Forestal). But they also host an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, particularly birds.
We recorded over 280 bird species in the dimorphic landscape of Rus Rus. This area is comprised of two distinct ecosystems: expansive pine savanna and dense gallery* forest. Each contains a unique suite of species that is constantly evolving, so researchers are recording more species with each visit. Our expedition recorded range expansions for over 20 species and found such notables as Harpy Eagle, Crane Hawk, Jabiru, Black Rail, Green Ibis, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Scaled Pigeon, Northern Potoo, Yellow Tyrannulet, Aplomado Falcon, and Snowy Cotinga.
In Olancho, we surveyed miles of mountain trails in the central highlands and recorded over 200 species. Our top target was the pine forest denizen Red-throated Caracara, which we missed, but we were told of many recent encounters. We did see several other target birds such as Ocellated Quail, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Golden-winged Warbler, Golden-cheeked Warbler, and Red Crossbill. We also surveyed the lowland portion of Isidro Zuniga’s Las Orquideas Nature Preserve, where we documented a Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, a hummingbird with an isolated population that can only be found in this small region of Honduras.
Protected forests in eastern Honduras also face serious threats from natural resource extraction companies and cattle ranchers. Mining and Hydropower projects destroy hundreds of hectares and divert miles of rivers in Olancho. Cattle ranchers are recent migrants to the Rus Rus region and are illegally grabbing land to clearcut for cattle pastures. However, a determined community of environmentalists is standing up. These activists are literally risking life and limb to protect the forests, as you read in last year’s article about the late Berta Caceres. Fortunately we never faced any threats during this expedition and were able to talk with local communities and learn about these pressing conservation issues from their perspectives.
* Gallery forests are forests that form as corridors along rivers or wetlands and project into landscapes that have fewer trees, such as grasslands or deserts.
There is currently a proposal for the construction and operation of a 501 ft. by 81 ft. CAFO barn to hold and grow 4,800 pigs from feeder to market size in Catherine Township, Blair County. This will be located on Hemlock Lane just off Rt. 22 about four miles north of Williamsburg, and will be the first of its kind in Blair County.
A drive through nearly any part of rural Pennsylvania makes clear why agriculture is touted as the number one industry in the state. Thousands of farms large and small cover the landscape, and many have been run by the same families for generations. As it becomes increasingly difficult to make a living on a small family farm, a new concept in farming has emerged in recent decades. Now well-entrenched in southeastern PA and many neighboring states, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have become a common sight (and smell) for anyone passing through those areas. Basically, a CAFO is defined as a highly-mechanized feeding operation designed to raise the maximum number of animals as quickly as possible at the lowest cost. A farming operation is designated as a CAFO based on the type and number of animals involved. For instance, a large CAFO for poultry is anything over 125,000 chickens, while for hogs it is anything over 2,500 pigs. The concept is spreading rapidly.
There is currently a proposal for the construction and operation of a 501 ft. by 81 ft. CAFO barn to hold and grow 4,800 pigs from feeder to market size in Catherine Township, Blair County. This will be located on Hemlock Lane just off Rt. 22 about four miles north of Williamsburg, and will be the first of its kind in Blair County.
While the decision to build a CAFO may pose a financial risk to the owners, it will result in long-term health, financial and life quality impacts to hundreds of their neighbors. Those of us who grew up or live in farming areas are accustomed to the smells of farming activity, especially the spreading of cow manure on fields and the odor from barns. It is part of country life. The odor from pig manure is notoriously worse than that from cows, however, and the proposed facility will generate at least 1.4 million gallons of manure annually to be stored onsite and spread twice a year on about 300 acres of farm fields scattered near the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River from Canoe Creek State Park nearly to Water Street. Dead animals will be composted on site above ground on a concrete slab. Huge fans will operate 24/7 to vent the barn and the manure storage chamber beneath it. The odor from a CAFO for 4,800 pigs (dead and alive) will be like nothing we could imagine from traditional farming practices.
The adverse impacts on property use, recreational activities, water quality and human health will be significant, but is understated or dismissed in a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared by the US Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency in 2016. Access to the studies and plans cited in the EA was restricted. Concerns about the potential negative effects of the proposal have led a group of local citizens to form the Canoe Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC), with the initial goal of obtaining a thorough and transparent assessment of the significant environmental impacts that may occur during the construction and operation of this project. CVCC, with assistance from the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP), is also looking at legal action to stop or delay the project.
A great deal of information on CAFOs is available online from reputable sources, including universities and a publication by the National Association of Local Boards of Health. A Google search of the subject will reveal hundreds of references on impacts to human health and the environment. The SRAP website at srap.org is a good starting place if you want to learn more.
If you are concerned about the CAFO to Blair County, contact me, Bruce Rodgers, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are concerned about the four CAFOs proposed for Bedford County, contact Laura Jackson at email@example.com.