HIGHLANDS CONSERVATION ACT -- (House of Representatives - November 17, 2004)
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and concur in the Senate amendment to the bill (H.R. 1964) to assist the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in conserving priority lands and natural resources in the Highlands region, and for other purposes.
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Highlands Conservation Act.
My constituents, like most people around the state of New Jersey, have seen the ills of sprawl and the consequences of poor planning and meager preservation efforts. Most of us are surrounded by rampant commercial and industrial development in New Jersey.
Despite the overdevelopment of our state, unique areas of beauty and open space remain. One such tract of land, the Highlands Region, will be saved through today's legislation.
The Highlands is an incredible 2 million acre swath across four states-New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. This tract is home to nearly one and a half million people and is still a quick drive away from New York City and other major metropolitan areas.
Even more importantly, the Highlands provides and protects the drinking water supplies for over 15 million people who live in the Philadelphia-New York-Hartford metropolitan area, which cuts right through my central New Jersey district. Protecting these valuable water sources now will save the Federal government untold millions in future costs associated with building more treatment plants for the nation's most densely populated metropolitan area.
The Highlands Conservation Act authorizes the use of federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money to preserve and protect this area. This legislation fosters community involvement in the future of this region by allowing the governors of the four Highlands states to identify which lands are best eligible for conservation efforts. This act also increases local and state investment in this project by requiring that federal funds be matched dollar for dollar by local, state, and private funding sources. I am confident that the governor and the residents of New Jersey are eager to begin identifying and planning for the future of this green space in New Jersey.
In addition to monetary assistance to preserve the Highlands, this bill will provide technical assistance to communities and organizations involved in conservation efforts in the region. So many people have already done so much to help preserve this area, and they will now get the added benefit of assistance and expertise from the federal government.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN for his leadership on this issue and his hard work in getting this legislation to the floor. His tireless effort will ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of region.
I am pleased that the House of Representatives is considering this legislation today. This bill means a lot to New Jersey, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
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