Garrett Amendment for Highland Conservation Fund Passes House
Rep. Scott Garrett's (R-NJ) amendment to double funding by $2 million for land conservation partnerships authorized by the Highlands Conservation Act passed the House of Representatives by voice vote late Thursday night.
Garrett's amendment to H.R. 2996, the FY 2010 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, increases funding for federal conservation efforts, specifically in Northern New Jersey. The Highland Conservation Act of 2004, which Garrett was influential in passing, authorizes up to $10 million annually for land conservation partnerships. In April, Rep. Garrett signed a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting the appropriation of the full $10 million authorized by the Highland Conservation Act. This letter was cosigned by 22 bi-partisan Members of Congress.
"I am pleased my colleagues agree that we should fund high priority land conservation effort," Garrett said. "An additional $2 million will go a long way towards ensuring that our natural treasures will be preserved for future generations. The Highlands region contains 3.5 million acres of high priority conservation land in four states - Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Full funding is critical now because while population is increasing, forest land and wildlife habitat is decreasing. This high priority conservation land provides critical habitat for 150 animal species of special concern and recreational opportunities to more than 14 million people annually. It also produces drinking water for over 11 million people."
Garrett's amendment received endorsements from the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Highlands Coalition, the Wilderness Society, the Land Water Conservation Fund Coalition, the Trust for Public Land, the Friends of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge and the Northwest New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.
"We are absolutely thrilled to see an additional $2 million put toward the Highlands Conservation Act for FY10 and applaud the leadership Congressman Garrett has taken on land protection in the region," said Kristen Sykes, Appalachian Mountain Club Mid-Atlantic Project Manager and Vice Chair for the Highlands Coalition, a project of the AMC. "This additional funding is a big step toward full funding of the Highlands Conservation Act and will protect priority lands that provide clean drinking water, recreational opportunities, and open space for the millions of people living in the region."
Garrett also introduced two other amendments that were not allowed to be offered for full consideration by the House, due to a ruling of the House Rules Committee. The first of the two amendments would have increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund by $3 million for the upcoming fiscal year. This funding would have benefited conservations across the nation such as the Wallkill National Wildlife Reserve in Sussex County. Garrett has been active in encouraging local and federal officials to implement the Wallkill Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP).
The second amendment Garrett offered would appropriate an additional $2 million for the Environmental Protection Agency's Hazardous Substance Superfund. New Jersey has the most superfund sites in the nation, including one in Ringwood. The Ringwood site is the first and only federal Superfund site to be removed from the list and then re-added. The initial cleanup was incomplete, and current clean up efforts are ongoing.
"It is inexcusable that the people of the Ringwood area have had to endure an unhealthy and inhospitable environment for so long," Garrett said.
In April wrote a letter to EPA Director Lisa Jackson requesting that she make the cleanup of the Ringwood Superfund site a top priority. Garrett was instrumental in pushing to have the Ringwood site relisted on the Superfund list.