Dan Kunkle, Director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, and its board received the 3rd annual PSO Conservation Award on May 19, 2007 at the PSO annual meeting in Harrisburg. This award is given to a person, persons, or group whose work has resulted in significant conservation in Pennsylvania.
Located in Lehigh County, the center was formerly known as the Wildlife Information Center, and has about 120 volunteers. The organization recognizes that education and research are important parts of conservation.
The Lehigh Gap Nature Center has many on-going projects concerning education and research. In 1992 the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project was launched to monitor the ecological vital signs of the entire mountain, recommend assistance where needed, develop ecotourism information and programs, and prepare and distribute related educational materials. The Center has served several hundred children since 1996 with educational programs. Lehigh Gap Nature Center has monitored fall hawk migration since 1961 at the Bake Oven Knob Hawk Count.
Perhaps the grandest project of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center is land restoration, in the creation of the Lehigh Gap Refuge. The organization began a Wildlife Refuge Land Fund in 1990, and in 2002 was able to purchase over 750 acres of land which had been very degraded by industrial pollution and erosion. The center was the catalyst for plantings of native, warm-season grasses, both on the refuge and on private land. Pennsylvanians can now look on green mountainsides where barren slopes were the rule for more than half a century.
It is a pleasure to recognize Dan Kunkle and the board of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center for their many accomplishments in conservation in Pennsylvania.