After passage of the Highlands Conservation Reauthorization Act, a group of NGO’s, led by AMC, met and compiled findings and recommendations for implementing the changes to the Highlands Conservation Act Grant Program as outlined in the reauthorization bill. You can read the full report here: Highlands-Regional-Study-Update-Report.pdf
The Mid-Atlantic Highlands is a four-state region consisting of over 3-million acres of critical forested ridges, fertile farmland, streams, lakes, and reservoirs that reaches from northwest Connecticut across New York’s Lower Hudson Valley and northern New Jersey to southeastern Pennsylvania. In 2004, Congress passed the Highlands Conservation Act Grant Program to “recognize the importance of the water, forest, agricultural, wildlife, recreational, and cultural resources of the Highlands region and the national significance of the Highlands Region to the United States.”
After the Highlands Conservation Act expired at the end of 2021, the Highlands Conservation Reauthorization Act (2021) passed in December 2022, when it was included in the Omnibus spending bill, authorizing the program through 2029 at $10 million/year. Included in the Highlands Conservation Reauthorization Act are some important programmatic updates that align the program with current and future needs of the Highlands region, including revising the way in which land is identified for conservation by using the best available science and geographic information systems (GIS) and adding municipalities to the federal Highlands boundary upon the request of a Highlands state.
The purpose of the Highlands Regional Study Update is to revise the resource component data layers of the three previous Highlands analyses by incorporating the best available science and new data layers to reflect current scientific concerns, and to expand the geographic scope of the study to allow qualified municipalities outside of the current federally designated boundary to petition to be added to the Highlands region. A steering committee of non-governmental organizations was formed to help revise how land is identified for conservation, as well as provide input and expertise on the federal boundary expansion. The committee was comprised of 15 non-profit organizations from across the Highlands Region. Collectively, the committee decided that the best way to undertake these updates was for each state to form its own working group. There were a total of 43 non-profit organizations, state agencies, and private land trusts that took part in these working group meetings.
The Highlands Regional Study Update Report compiles recommendations made by the 4-state Highlands NGO community to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for implementing the programmatic changes included in the Highlands Conservation Reauthorization Act. This report includes recommendations to revise the resource component data layers of the previous Highlands analyses using the best available science, incorporate new data layers to reflect current scientific concerns, and to expand the geographic scope of the study to identify qualified municipalities outside the current federally designated boundary to be officially added to the Highlands region.