H.R. 1964 Highlands Conservation Act Summary

 Purposes – 

  • 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;
  • To preserve and protect high priority conservation land in the Highlands by authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to work in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture to provide financial assistance to the Highlands States;
  • To continue ongoing Forest Service programs to assist the Highlands States in the conservation of land and natural resources in the Highlands region.

 Definitions –  

  • Entities eligible to receive funding are any Highlands State - CT, NJ, NY, PA - or any agency or department within the four states that is authorized to own and manage land for conservation purposes;
  • Highlands region – map of Highlands lands prepared by the US Forest Service
  • Land Conservation Partnership Project means a project in the Highlands region, identified by the Forest Service in the Study, the Update, or any subsequent Pennsylvania and Connecticut Update as having high conservation value; and in which a non-Federal entity acquires land or an interest in land from a willing seller.

Section 4 – Land Conservation Partnership Projects - $100 million authorization over 10 yrs

  • Each year Governors of the four Highlands States may jointly submit a list of projects to the Secretary of the Interior from land identified as having high conservation value by the US Forest Service;
  • Secretary of Interior shall – in consultation with Sec of Agriculture - submit a list to Congress of projects submitted that are eligible to receive financial assistance;
  • If the land is converted for uses inconsistent with the purpose for which the assistance was provided, the Secretary may sue for specific performance and shall be entitled to reimbursement;
  • The Federal share of the cost of carrying out a land conservation partnership project under this section shall not exceed 50 percent of the total cost of the land conservation partnership project.

Section 5 – Forest Service Programs in the Highland region - $10 million authorization over 10 yrs

  • The Forest Service shall undertake other studies and research in the Highlands region, communicate and maintain a public dialogue regarding the findings of the Study and Update, and assist the Highland States, local units of government, individual landowners, and private organizations in identifying and using Forest Service and other technical and financial assistance programs of the Department of Agriculture to conserve land and natural resources in the Highlands region.