Updates from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut Highlands

States

The Highlands are truly a “backyard paradise.” The 3.5 million acre Highlands are a critical component of the East coast’s green infrastructure. Stretching from south-central Pennsylvania through New Jersey, New York and into northwestern Connecticut, the Highlands provide clean drinking water for over 15 million people between the Berkshires to the north and the Shenandoahs to the south. This nationally-recognized landscape is characterized by a common underlying geology, and close proximity to the Northeast megaregion stretching from Hartford, to New York, and Philadelphia. Within an hour of nearly 25 million Americans, the Highlands are a backyard paradise for one of the nation’s most densely populated regions.The Highlands provide “close-to-home” recreation to these millions and receive over 14 million recreational visits annually. With this proximity, though, comes the unrelenting threat of unplanned development. In NJ and NY, 5,000 acres of open space are developed each year. A recent report by the USFS found that between 1997 and 2001 over 44,930 acres of farmland has been lost in the Highlands Region. While nearly a quarter of the CT Highlands is protected, 13,000 acres, or 17%, was developed from 1985-2002. In PA, 15,000 acres were developed from 1992-2001. Unless bold, interjurisdictional steps are taken now to protect important natural resources, conserve working lands, and direct new development to municipal centers with existing infrastructure, the life sustaining resources of the Highlands will be lost.