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

Biodiversity

Congress has defined biological diversity as “the full range of variety and variability within and among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur, and encompasses ecosystem or community diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity.” Incredibly, 250 species of special concern (federal or state listed threatened, endangered or rare) are present in the four-state Highlands region. From large mammals, to birds, to amphibians to insects, all are crucially important to a fully functioning ecosystem. Some of the important species in the Highlands include bog turtle, bald eagle, Indiana bat, and timber rattlesnake. In addition, commercial species are important as well. In PA alone, more than $1 billion is spent on the hunting and fishing The US Forest Service’s assessment of biodiversity resources in the Highlands was done with a very complex model that accounted for habitat, IBAs and IMAs, rare and threatened species, contiguous landscapes, existing protected lands, and other green infrastructure elements.

Facts and Figures

  • 874,000 (62%) of the NY-NJ Highlands is important habitat
  • 350,000 acres of unbroken forests in NY-NJ
  • 1,861 miles of streams or 45% are trout-supporting
  • 250 of species of concern (state and federal)
  • 3 federally and 118 state endangered species
  • 7.5% or 100,000 acres are imperiled habitat in NY-NJ
  • 50% or 280,000 acres are special status habitat in NY-NJ

Key threats
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Invasive and exotic species

Strategies for protection
  • Habitat protection through acquisition and easement
  • Improved best management practices on private and public lands
  • Enhancing landscape connections through greenways and corridors
  • Ecological restoration (e.g., dam removal, riparian buffer improvements, invasive species removal)
  • Sustainable agricultural practices