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The Highlands of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania

Conservation Act

The Highlands Conservation Act, signed by President Bush on 11/30/04, is designed to assist Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in conserving land and natural resources in the Highlands region through federal assistance for land conservation projects in which a state entity acquires land or an interest in land from a willing seller to permanently protect resources of high conservation value.

The USDA Forest Service has identified lands that have high conservation value of the Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update similar to that completed for the Highlands of New Jersey and New York in 2002.

Each year, governors of the four Highlands states may submit land conservation projects in the Highlands for funding not to exceed fifty-percent of the total cost; projects must be consistent with areas identified in the Update as having high resource value.

The USDA Forest Service is responsible for doing the resource assessment and preparing the Update for the states involved; Department of the Interior has responsibility for project grants.

The purposes of this Act are:

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 authorize the Secretary of the Interior to work in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture to provide financial assistance to the Highlands States to preserve and protect high priority conservation land in the Highlands region.

To continue the ongoing Forest Service programs in the Highlands region to assist the Highlands States, local units of government, and private forest and farm landowners in the conservation of land and natural resources in the Highlands region.

Land Conservation Projects:

The HCA authorizes federal assistance to the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania for land conservation partnership projects in which any Highlands State; or any agency or department of any Highlands State with authority to own and manage land for conservation purposes, including the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, acquires land or an interest in land from a willing seller to permanently protect land in the Highlands region. Each year, the governors of the Highlands states will submit projects. A project is eligible if it meets the following conditions:

(1) identifies the non-federal entity that shall own or hold and manage the land or interest in land;

(2) identifies the source of funds to match the federal share, the federal share shall not exceed 50% of the total cost of the project;

(3) describes the management objectives for the land that will ensure permanent protection and use of the land for the purpose for which the assistance will be provided;

(4) provides that, if the project is converted, or the land is disposed of or used for a purpose inconsistent with the purpose for which the assistance was provided, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior, the United States may seek specific remedies, and shall be entitled to reimbursement;

(5) provides that land conservation partnership projects will be consistent with areas identified as having high conservation value in: the Important Areas portion of the 1992 Highlands Regional Study; the Conservation Focal Areas portion of the 2002 Update to the Highlands Regional Study; the Conservation Priorities portion of the 2002 Update to the Highlands Regional Study; land identified as having higher or highest resource value in the Conservation Values Assessment portion of the 2002 Update to the Highlands Regional Study; and land identified as having high conservation value in the Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update.

Update Definition:

The first Highlands Regional Study was completed in 1992 and it covered parts of New York and New Jersey. An Update to that study was completed in 2002. The term “Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update” means a report to be completed by the Forest Service that identifies areas having high conservation values in the Highlands of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, done in a manner similar to that of the Study and Update for the Highlands in New York and New Jersey.

The 2002 Update for New York and New Jersey can be found at this website under “Highlands Publications”

Federal Agency Roles:

The USDA Forest Service is responsible for doing the resource assessment and preparing the Update for the states involved. The Forest Service will identify in the Update lands that have high conservation value. The Department of the Interior (DOI) has the sole responsibility for project grants. The states will apply directly to DOI for project funding. The DOI will issue grants to the States or their entities for the acquisition of land, or interests in land, for conservation purposes in the Highlands.

Area to be Included:

The map of the Highlands Region for the four states and the names of the towns that fall within this region are posted on the Highlands Region website. The boundary of this region is the political boundary of the towns that include all or a portion of the Highlands Region; this has been done for accuracy of data analysis. “Town” means a municipality, whether town, township, city, village, or borough, incorporated under state law and governing, according to the state’s municipal code, an area defined by legal boundaries.

Funding:

The HCA is authorizing legislation that allows for the expenditure of funds and gives direction to the Federal agencies, but any funding must be appropriated yearly by Congress.

The legislation authorizes $10,000,000 to be appropriated to the Secretary of the Interior for fiscal years 2005 through 2014, to remain available for land conservation partnership projects until expended.

The legislation authorizes $1,000,000 to be appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture for fiscal years 2005 through 2014, for technical assistance and programs by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Forest Service in the Highlands.

These activities include a Connecticut and Pennsylvania Update, communication of the Update, and assisting the Highlands States, local units of government, individual landowners, and private organizations through Forest Service and other technical and financial assistance programs of the US Department of Agriculture.

Coordination of Project Funding Requests:

It is the responsibility of the states to submit projects to the Department of the Interior for funding. They may do this individually or they may jointly submit land conservation partnership projects.

Full Text of the Highlands Conservation Act PL 108-421:

Highlands Conservation Act

(Engrossed Amendment as Agreed to by Senate)

HR 1964 EAS

In the Senate of the United States,

October 10, 2004.

Resolved, That the bill from the House of Representatives (H.R. 1964) entitled 'An Act to assist the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in conserving priority lands and natural resources in the Highlands region, and for other purposes.' do pass with the following

AMENDMENT:

Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the 'Highlands Conservation Act'.

SEC. 2. PURPOSES.

The purposes of this Act are—

(1) 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;

(2) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to work in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture to provide financial assistance to the Highlands States to preserve and protect high priority conservation land in the Highlands region; and

(3) to continue the ongoing Forest Service programs in the Highlands region to assist the Highlands States, local units of government, and private forest and farm landowners in the conservation of land and natural resources in the Highlands region.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act:

(1) HIGHLANDS REGION- The term 'Highlands region' means the area depicted on the map entitled 'The Highlands Region', dated June 2004, including the list of municipalities included in the Highlands region, and maintained in the headquarters of the Forest Service in Washington, District of Columbia.

(2) HIGHLANDS STATE- The term 'Highlands State' means—

(A) the State of Connecticut;

(B) the State of New Jersey;

(C) the State of New York; and

(D) the State of Pennsylvania.

(3) LAND CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP PROJECT- The term 'land conservation partnership project' means a land conservation project—

(A) located in the Highlands region;

(B) identified by the Forest Service in the Study, the Update, or any subsequent Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update as having high conservation value; and

(C) in which a non-Federal entity acquires land or an interest in land from a willing seller to permanently protect, conserve, or preserve the land through a partnership with the Federal Government.

(4) NON-FEDERAL ENTITY- The term 'non-Federal entity' means—

(A) any Highlands State; or

(B) any agency or department of any Highlands State with authority to own and manage land for conservation purposes, including the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

(5) STUDY- The term 'Study' means the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional Study conducted by the Forest Service in 1990.

(6)- The term 'Update' means the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional Study: 2002 Update conducted by the Forest Service.

(7) HIGHLANDS REGIONAL STUDY: CONNECTICUT AND PENNSYLVANIA 2010 UPDATE- The term "Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update" means a report to be completed by the Forest Service that identifies areas having high conservation values in the States of Connecticut and Pennsylvania in a manner similar to that utilized in the Study and Update.

SEC. 4. LAND CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP PROJECTS IN THE HIGHLANDS REGION.

(a) SUBMISSION OF PROPOSED PROJECTS- Each year, the governors of the Highlands States, with input from pertinent units of local government and the public, may—

(1) jointly identify land conservation partnership projects in the Highlands region from land identified as having high conservation values in the Study, the Update, or Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update that shall be proposed for Federal financial assistance; and

(2) submit a list of those projects to the Secretary of the Interior.

(b) CONSIDERATION OF PROJECTS- Each year, the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, shall submit to Congress a list of the land conservation partnership projects submitted under subsection (a)(2) that are eligible to receive financial assistance under this section.

(c) ELIGIBILITY CONDITIONS- To be eligible for financial assistance under this section for a land conservation partnership project, a non-Federal entity shall enter into an agreement with the Secretary of the Interior that—

(1) identifies the non-Federal entity that shall own or hold and manage the land or interest in land;

(2) identifies the source of funds to provide the non-Federal share under subsection (d);

(3) describes the management objectives for the land that will ensure permanent protection and use of the land for the purpose for which the assistance will be provided;

(4) provides that, if the non-Federal entity converts, uses, or disposes of the land conservation partnership project for a purpose inconsistent with the purpose for which the assistance was provided, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior, the United States—

(A) may seek specific performance of the conditions of financial assistance in accordance with paragraph (3) in Federal court; and

(B) shall be entitled to reimbursement from the non-Federal entity in an amount that is, as determined at the time of conversion, use, or disposal, the greater of—

(i) the total amount of the financial assistance provided for the project by the Federal Government under this section; or

(ii) the amount by which the financial assistance increased the value of the land or interest in land; and

(5) provides that land conservation partnership projects will be consistent with areas identified as having high conservation value in—

(A) the Important Areas portion of the Study;

(B) the Conservation Focal Areas portion of the Update;

(C) the Conservation Priorities portion of the Update;

(D) land identified as having higher or highest resource value in the Conservation Values Assessment portion of the Update; and

(E) land identified as having high conservation value in the Pennsylvania and Connecticut Update.

(d) NON-FEDERAL SHARE REQUIREMENT- 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.

(e) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of the Interior $10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2005 through 2014, to remain available until expended.

SEC. 5. FOREST SERVICE AND USDA PROGRAMS IN THE HIGHLANDS REGION.

(a) IN GENERAL- To meet the land resource goals of, and the scientific and conservation challenges identified in, the Study, Update, and any future study that the Forest Service may undertake in the Highlands region, the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the Forest Service and in consultation with the Chief of the National Resources Conservation Service, shall continue to assist the Highlands States, local units of government, and private forest and farm landowners in the conservation of land and natural resources in the Highlands region.

(b) DUTIES- The Forest Service shall—

(1) in consultation with the Highlands States, undertake other studies and research in the Highlands region consistent with the purposes of this Act, including a Highlands Regional Study: Connecticut and Pennsylvania 2010 Update";

(2) communicate the findings of the Study and Update and maintain a public dialogue regarding implementation of the Study and Update; and

(3) 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.

(c) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out this section $1,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2005 through 2014.

SEC. 6. PRIVATE PROPERTY PROTECTION AND LACK OF REGULATORY EFFECT.

(a) ACCESS TO PRIVATE PROPERTY- Nothing in this Act—

(1) requires a private property owner to permit public access (including Federal, State, or local government access) to private property; or

(2) modifies any provision of Federal, State, or local law with regard to public access to, or use of, private land.

(b) LIABILITY- Nothing in this Act creates any liability, or has any effect on liability under any other law, of a private property owner with respect to any persons injured on the private property.

(c) RECOGNITION OF AUTHORITY TO CONTROL LAND USE- Nothing in this Act modifies any authority of Federal, State, or local governments to regulate land use.

(d) PARTICIPATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS- Nothing in this Act requires the owner of any private property located in the Highlands region to participate in the land conservation, financial, or technical assistance or any other programs established under this Act.

(e) PURCHASE OF LAND OR INTERESTS IN LAND FROM WILLING SELLERS ONLY- Funds appropriated to carry out this Act shall be used to purchase land or interests in land only from willing sellers.

Attest:

Secretary.

108th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 1964

AMENDMENT

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