In a continuing effort to protect the drinking water supply for 11 million Americans in the northeast United States, U.S. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) has introduced legislation to extend the federal Highlands Conservation Act (HCA) -- reaffirming the federal commitment toward the preservation of the Highlands as a national priority.
Signed into law in 2004, the HCA authorized $10 million a year for 10 years for land conservation partnership projects and open space purchases from willing sellers. Additionally, the law authorized one million dollars annually for the Forest Service to provide continued technical assistance and research in the four-state Highlands region: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. Frelinghuysen's bill allows the federal government to match municipal, county and state efforts already in place.
To date, $14.25 million has been appropriated for the HCA. The funding has protected over 3,726 acres in the 4-state Highlands Region. Frelinghuysen's legislation would extend the HCA for another 10 years. The program is currently set to expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2014.
"This legislation recognizes that the Highlands are a national treasure that must be preserved. While we have been successful in protecting thousands of acres over the last ten years, our work is not done. It is essential we continue to work in public-private partnerships and with our local and county officials to save open space in the Highlands. While remaining mindful of private property rights, together we must protect this critical watershed region and preserve the area as a habitat for wildlife," he said.
The Highlands Region supplies drinking water for more than 11 million people, provides a habitat for hundreds of plant and animal species and provides recreational opportunities for the millions of people who live within the region.