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Senate Passes Highlands Conservation Act
Monday, October 11, 2004Washington, D.C. -- The United States Senate passed the $100 million Highlands Conservation Act, which is dedicated for open space in New Jersey and neighboring states. The act was passed by unanimous consent on Sunday; the bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
The measure, sponsored by Senators Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in the Senate, and Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-5th Dist.) in the House, authorizes $100 million in spending over 10 years for open space purchases in a Highlands region that stretches from Pennsylvania and New Jersey through New York and Connecticut. In addition, another $1 million is authorized for planning assistance each year through the Forest Service.
"Open space preservation is vital to our people and our communities,'' Senator Corzine said. "Passage of this bill is an important step forward in our battle to preserve our precious open space in the New Jersey Highlands and protect our vital drinking water supplies.''
Senator Lautenberg added, "New Jersey's Highlands is one of the last open spaces in the most densely populated region of the country. This act provides powerful tools to protect and preserve the priceless ecological, recreational and scenic resources of this forest."
The Highlands provides quality drinking water for more than 11 million people in the four-state region. More than 200 species of plants and more than 50 species of animal can be found in the Highlands that are listed as endangered on federal and state inventories.
More than half of the Highlands is forest land, but 84 percent is privately owned and could be developed. More than 3,000 acres of forest were lost annually in the Highlands between 1995 and 2000, and more than 1, 600 acres of farmland lost, according to a federal study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Similar legislation passed the House late last year. The one minor change in the Senate version, which requires House concurrences authorizes appropriations from the general fund as opposed to earmarking the land and water conservation fund. The House is expected to agree to the change before the current session of the Congress adjourns later this year.