Key House Committee approves Highlands Conservation Act extension

Key House Committee approves Highlands Conservation Act extension

Washington, DC – In a significant step forward for the legislation, the House Natural Resources Committee today approved Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (NJ-11) bill, H.R. 894, to extend the authorization of the Highlands Conservation Act (HCA).  Passage of H.R. 894 by the Natural Resources Committee advances the legislation toward floor consideration by the House of Representatives.

“This legislation recognizes what many New Jerseyans already know: the Highlands is a critical watershed region which provides drinking water for millions.  It must be protected,” Frelinghuysen said. “While we have been successful in protecting thousands of acres over the last decade, there is still work to be done.  It is imperative that we continue to promote work in public-private partnerships with our local and county officials to maximize open space in the Highlands, while ensuring private property rights.” 

Originally authored by Frelinghuysen in 2004, the HCA is an integral part of a continuing effort to protect the drinking water supply for 11 million Americans in the northeast United States and reaffirms the federal commitment toward the preservation of the Highlands as a national priority. 

Since 2004, the HCA authorized $10 million per year 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 continues to allow the federal government to match municipal, county and state efforts already in place.

Most recently, the FY16 Omnibus Appropriations bill provided $10 million for the HCA.  To date, over $27 million has been appropriated for the HCA, which has protected over 5,500 acres in the 4-state Highlands Region.  H.R. 894 would extend the HCA through 2021.

H.R. 894 is cosponsored by New Jersey Representatives Scott Garrett (NJ-5), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), and Bill Pascrell (NJ-9).