Identifying high value conservation lands and conservation strategies
In 1992, the Northeastern Area of the Forest Service conducted a resource assessment of the New York-New Jersey Highlands region with a focus on potential impacts of development trends. This region is naturally significant area that provides recreational opportunities for some 14 million people per year, contains numerous cultural and natural resources, and is an important source of drinking water for the New York metropolitan area. A bi-State, interdisciplinary workgroup with 120 participants collaborated on the interpretation of findings and developed conservation strategies. The end product has spurred local support for open space conservation.
- As of June 2002, all seven of the Highlands counties in New Jersey has established open space funding programs for land acquisition. In addition, some counties in the region used information from the study to inform comprehensive land use plans and zoning ordinances (USDA FS Dec 2002). The Highlands study was updated in 2002 to stay current with continued population growth and land-use changes.
- The Highlands Conservation Act of 2004 (PL 108-42) [HCA] directed the Forest Service to expand the 2002 update to include Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The resulting Highlands boundary now encompasses 3.4 million acres, 25 countries, and 319 municipalities in 4 states.
- The Northeastern Area completed and published the Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update in March 2011 (http://www.na.fe.fed.us/highlands/con_act/). This marks the completion of the study phase of work mandated in the Highlands Conservation Act to “identify areas having high conservation values” in the Highlands area.
- To date, $9.2 million has been appropriated under the HCA for land projection in the four Highlands states. Congressional authorization for HCA ends in FY2014.
Martina Barnes, Regional Planner
U.S. EPA, Region 2