Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced legislation known as the Highlands Conservation Act. This legislation would allow states to access federal funding for projects to promote conservation, tourism, and recreation in the region. The Highlands Region of the Northeastern United States consists of forested mountains and hills stretching from Connecticut, through New York and New Jersey, to Pennsylvania. The bill would provide these states with resources to conserve land, and natural resources including a clean water supply that is essential for serving more than 20 million people in the densely populated areas around the Highlands Region.
“The Highlands are one of our most special national treasures, and we must continue to protect the beauty and tradition of this remarkable place for generations to come,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Environment & Public Works Committee. “Reauthorizing the Highlands Conservation Act will ensure our communities have the resources they need to preserve local forests, waterways, and open spaces, while promoting the tourism and recreational activities that are so important to economic growth. This legislation will continue successful public-private partnerships in the four-state Highlands region and support the local economy.”
“From hiking trails to clean water, the Highlands Region is full of precious, historic natural resources that are enjoyed by many residents in Connecticut and the surrounding area. The Highlands Conservation Act would secure more resources to help preserve the picturesque mountains, hills and waterways—boosting tourism and recreation, creating jobs, and ensuring that this region remains an environmental treasure for years to come,” said Senator Blumenthal.
“The Highlands area isn’t just a pretty landscape – it’s home to hundreds of wildlife species and provides clean drinking water to one of the most populated areas in the country,” said Senator Murphy. “We’ve made great progress so far preserving the Highlands, but we have more work to do. This bill will go a long way in helping protect this critical ecosystem for centuries.”
“The Pennsylvania state constitution reads: ‘The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment’,” said Senator Casey. “The Highlands Conservation Act works towards this goal and will help us to conserve our region’s beauty for generations to come.”
The Highlands is a nationally significant landscape that yields benefits and resources to more than 11 million Americans. First authorized in 2004 at $10 million per year for 10 years, the Highlands Conservation Act authorization expired at the end of Fiscal Year 2014. To date, the program has protected more than 5,900 acres of conservation land in the Highlands Region of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut and leveraged $17.25 million in federal funding with an additional $34.4 million in non-federal matching funds. The bill would match funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect high-value conservation areas, as identified by the USDA Forest Service, in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.