PennEast Pipeline threatens Baldpate Mountain Important Bird Area
Because of the extreme ecological sensitivity of Baldpate Mountain, Washington Crossing Audubon Society opposes routing the PennEast pipeline through the JCP&L power line cut that bisects Baldpate Mountain.
An outlier of the Sourland Mountains, Baldpate Mountain contains some of the richest biodiversity in New Jersey. Southern and northern species meet at Baldpate, enriching the flora and fauna. Due to the high quality habitat, including areas of intact understory, and the mingling of southern and northern species, Baldpate Mountain has the highest concentration of breeding Neotropical migrants in New Jersey. The thirty-two Neotropical breeding species include fourteen warblers and the Yellow-breasted Chat, two tanagers, three vireos and two thrushes. Twenty-eight breeding Neotropical migrant species are ranked by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) as birds of conservation concern. Baldpate is also an important migratory stop for Neotropical birds. Fifty species of Neotropical migrants of conservation concern use Baldpate Mountain as a migratory stop.
While not confirmed as breeding, the New Jersey threatened Barred Owl and Red-headed Woodpeckers have been reported in May and June in multiple years, indicating possible breeding. The New Jersey threatened Long-eared Owl has winter roosts at Baldpate Mountain. A total of 171 bird species have been reported to eBird at Baldpate; sixty-one of these are ABC species of conservation concern that use Baldpate for breeding, a migratory stop or as part of a resident territory.
“An outlier of the Sourland Mountains, Baldpate Mountain contains some of the richest biodiversity in New Jersey.”
A total of eighteen reptile and amphibian species have been recorded on Baldpate, including two reptiles of conservation concern, Eastern Box Turtle and Northern Copperhead and an amphibian of conservation concern, Fowler’s Toad. An extensive list of rare plants has been complied by Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space.
“Baldpate Mountain has the highest concentration of breeding Neotropical migrants in New Jersey”
“Because Baldpate Mountain is long and narrow, it is highly sensitive to disruption from activity on the power line cut that bisects the forest lengthwise.”
Because Baldpate Mountain is long and narrow, it is highly sensitive to disruption from activity on the power line cut that bisects the forest lengthwise. Of special concern is noise from blasting and construction that would penetrate deeply into the forest, interfering with vocal communication between birds at a critical time during the breeding season.
Construction along the power line cut and especially extending the width of the power line cut would destroy or degrade adjacent breeding habitat along the length of the mountain. Because Baldpate breeding territories are saturated, these birds cannot move further back into the interior forest if disturbed. There is no place for the displaced birds to go. Blue-winged and Chestnut-sided Warblers, species of conservation concern that breed at the forest-power line ecotone, would be especially affected.
The blasting necessary to penetrate the extremely hard diabase substrate has the potential to affect the springs that feed the creeks that originate on Baldpate, disrupting their flow and the animals that depend on them, including the breeding Louisiana Waterthrush, a species of conservation concern.
The potential damage to the breeding birds of conservation concern cannot be mitigated as there is no other high quality habitat for relocation of these species in central New Jersey. The Sourland Mountain habitat is similarly saturated and the areas adjacent to Baldpate are too degraded to support healthy populations of birds that require closed canopy, healthy understory or interior forest.
Healthy forest habitat takes decades to develop, considerably longer than the lifetime of the forest breeding birds, making mitigation impossible. The affected species are of conservation concern because they are declining at an unsustainable rate or their habitat is being destroyed or degraded at an unsustainable rate.
“The potential damage to the breeding birds of conservation concern cannot be mitigated as there is no other high quality habitat for relocation…”
The power line cut predates the requirement for an environmental impact statement. Considering the ecological sensitivity of Baldpate Mountain, the power line cut should have never been placed there. A thorough biological inventory and environmental impact statement would clearly show why. The damage to the fragile but intact Baldpate Mountain ecosystem should not be compounded by allowing PennEast access for their pipeline.
Eastern Screech Owl
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler