Regional Highlands Commission and Stringent Regulations Proposed
State Highlands Bill Threatens Northern New Jersey Property Owners
It is not just the Congressional bill known as the Highlands Conservation Act that is hanging over northern New Jersey property owners. In addition, the New Jersey Legislature is considering an extreme Highlands preservation measure of its own. This measure, the 100-page Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act (S.1, A.2635), was introduced on April 29 in the Senate and May 3 in the Assembly. The Act would establish a regional commission for the seven-county area, the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council (think New York's Adirondack Park Agency or New Jersey's Pinelands Commission).
The Commission would make a regional master plan, to be followed by the DEP's "stringent standards governing development in the Highlands preservation area." Once again, a power grab is disguised as protection of the water supply. Hundreds of property owners from Morris County, N.J., protested against the bill at a legislative hearing at the State Capitol during April. Primary sponsors are Bob Smith and Robert J. Martin in the Senate, John F. McKeon in the Assembly.
In Congress, the Stewardship act, re-named the Highlands Conservation Act, remains a high priority in Congress. It is basically pork barrel to insidiously destroy the rural economy and culture. It would promote landscape preservation and wilderness restoration, while providing $100 million over ten years to fund government acquisition of private land within a giant 2 million-acre swath of land across northern New Jersey, as well as in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New York, and western Connecticut. The original Senate bill known as S. 999 is inactive. Instead, H.R. 1964, which passed the House, is the active Senate bill, where it has been before the Public Lands and Forests Committee.
- Carol W. LaGrasse
May 6, 2004