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108th Congress Rept. 108-373
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session Part 1
HIGHLANDS CONSERVATION ACT
November 17, 2003.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Pombo, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 1964]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 1964) to establish the Highlands Stewardship Area in the
States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania,
and for other purposes, having considered the same, report
favorably thereon with amendments and recommend that the bill
as amended do pass.
The amendments are as follows:
Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Highlands Conservation Act''.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress finds the following--
(1) The Highlands region is a physiographic province that
encompasses more than 2,000,000 acres extending from eastern
Pennsylvania through the States of New Jersey and New York to
(2) The Highlands region is an environmentally unique area
(A) provides clean drinking water to over 15,000,000
people in metropolitan areas in the States of
Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania;
(B) provides critical wildlife habitat, including
habitat for 247 threatened and endangered species;
(C) maintains an important historic connection to
early Native American culture, colonial settlement, the
American Revolution, and the Civil War;
(D) contains recreational resources for 14 million
(E) provides other significant ecological, natural,
tourism, recreational, educational, and economic
(F) provides homeownership opportunities and access
to affordable housing that is safe, clean, and healthy.
(3) An estimated 1 in 12 citizens of the United States live
within a 2-hour drive of the Highlands region.
(4) More than 1,400,000 residents live in the Highlands
(5) The Highlands region forms a greenbelt adjacent to the
Philadelphia-New York City-Hartford urban corridor that offers
the opportunity to preserve water, forest and agricultural
resources, wildlife habitat, recreational areas, and historic
sites, while encouraging sustainable economic growth and
development in a fiscally and environmentally sound manner.
(6) Continued population growth and land use patterns in the
(A) reduce the availability and quality of water;
(B) reduce air quality;
(C) fragment the forests;
(D) destroy critical migration corridors and forest
(E) result in the loss of recreational opportunities
and scenic, historic, and cultural resources.
(7) The water, forest, wildlife, recreational, agricultural,
and cultural resources of the Highlands region, in combination
with the proximity of the Highlands region to the largest
metropolitan areas in the United States, make the Highlands
region nationally significant.
(8) The national significance of the Highlands region has
been documented in--
(A) the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional Study
conducted by the Forest Service in 1990;
(B) the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional Study:
2002 Update conducted by the Forest Service;
(C) the bi-State Skylands Greenway Task Force Report;
(D) the New Jersey State Development and
(E) the New York State Open Space Conservation Plan;
(F) the Connecticut Green Plan: Open Space
Acquisition FY 2001-2006;
(G) the open space plans of the State of
(H) other open space conservation plans for States in
the Highlands region.
(9) The Highlands region includes or is adjacent to numerous
parcels of land owned by the Federal Government or federally
designated areas that protect, conserve, or restore resources
of the Highlands region, including--
(A) the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge;
(B) the Shawanagunk Grasslands Wildlife Refuge;
(C) the Morristown National Historical Park;
(D) the Delaware and Lehigh Canal Corridors;
(E) the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area;
(F) the Delaware River Basin;
(G) the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area;
(H) the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River;
(I) the Appalachian National Scenic Trail;
(J) the United States Military Academy at West Point,
(K) the Highlands National Millenium Trail;
(L) the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge;
(M) the proposed Crossroads of the Revolution
National Heritage Area;
(N) the proposed Musconetcong National Scenic and
Recreational River in New Jersey; and
(O) the Farmington River Wild and Scenic Area in
(10) It is in the interest of the United States to protect,
conserve, and restore the resources of the Highlands region for
the residents of, and visitors to, the Highlands region.
(11) The States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and
Pennsylvania, and units of local government in the Highlands
region have the primary responsibility for protecting,
conserving, preserving, restoring and promoting the resources
of the Highlands region.
(12) Because of the longstanding Federal practice of
assisting States in creating, protecting, conserving, and
restoring areas of significant natural and cultural importance,
and the national significance of the Highlands region, the
Federal Government should, in partnership with the Highlands
States and units of local government in the Highlands region,
protect, restore, and preserve the water, forest, agricultural,
wildlife, recreational and cultural resources of the Highlands
SEC. 3. PURPOSES.
The purposes of this Act are as follows:
(1) To recognize the importance of the water, forest,
agricultural, wildlife, recreational and cultural resources of
the Highlands, 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 lands in the Highlands
(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 lands and natural resources in the Highlands
SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) Highlands region.--The term ``Highlands region'' means
the physiographic province, defined by the Reading Prong and
ecologically similar adjacent upland areas, that encompasses
more than 2,000,000 acres extending from eastern Pennsylvania
through the States of New Jersey and New York to northwestern
(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;
(D) the State of Pennsylvania; and
(E) any agency or department of any Highlands State.
(3) Land conservation partnership project.--The term ``land
conservation partnership project'' means a land conservation
project located within the Highlands region identified as
having high conservation value by the Forest Service in which a
non-Federal entity acquires land or an interest in land from a
willing seller for the purpose of permanently protecting,
conserving, or preserving the land through a partnership with
the Federal Government.
(4) Non-federal entity.--The term ``non-Federal entity''
means 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
(5) Study.--The term ``study'' means the New York-New Jersey
Highlands Regional Study conducted by the Forest Service in
(6) Update.--The term ``update'' means the New York-New
Jersey Highlands Regional Study: 2002 Update conducted by the
SEC. 5. LAND CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP PROJECTS IN THE HIGHLANDS REGION.
(a) Submission of Proposed Projects.--Annually, the Governors of the
Highlands States, with input from pertinent units of local government
and the public, may jointly identify land conservation partnership
projects in the Highlands region that shall be proposed for Federal
financial assistance and submit a list of those projects to the
Secretary of the Interior.
(b) Consideration of Projects.--The Secretary of the Interior, in
consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, shall annually submit
to Congress a list of those land conservation partnership projects
submitted under subsection (a) 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
(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 required under subsection (d);
(3) describes the management objectives for the land that
will assure 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 may seek specific performance of the
conditions of financial assistance in accordance with paragraph
(3) in Federal court and 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--
(A) the total amount of the financial assistance
provided for the project by the Federal Government
under this section; or
(B) the amount by which the financial assistance
increased the value of the land or interest in land;
(5) provides that land conservation partnership projects will
be consistent with areas identified as having high conservation
value in the following:
(A) Important Areas portion of the Forest Service
(B) Conservation Focal Areas portion of the Forest
(C) Conservation Priorities portion of the update.
(D) Lands identified as having higher or highest
resource value in the Conservation Values Assessment
portion of the 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
(e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be
appropriated to the Secretary of the Interior from the general funds of
the Treasury or the Land and Water Conservation Fund to carry out this
section $10,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2005 through 2014.
Amounts appropriated pursuant to this authorization of appropriations
shall remain available until expended.
SEC. 6. FOREST SERVICE AND USDA PROGRAMS IN THE HIGHLANDS REGION.
(a) In General.--In order 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 lands 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 as appropriate in the Highlands
region consistent with the purposes of this Act;
(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 the fiscal years 2005 through 2014.
SEC. 7. PRIVATE PROPERTY PROTECTION AND LACK OF REGULATORY EFFECT.
(a) Access to Private Property.--Nothing in this Act shall be
(1) require any private property owner to permit public
access (including Federal, State, or local government access)
to such private property; and
(2) modify any provision of Federal, State, or local law with
regard to public access to or use of private lands.
(b) Liability.--Nothing in this Act shall be construed to create any
liability, or to have any effect on any liability under any other law,
of any private property owner with respect to any persons injured on
such private property.
(c) Recognition of Authority to Control Land Use.--Nothing in this
Act shall be construed to modify any authority of Federal, State, or
local governments to regulate land use.
(d) Participation of Private Property Owners.--Nothing in this Act
shall be construed to require 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 Lands or Interests in Lands From Willing Sellers
Only.--Funds appropriated to carry out this Act shall be used to
purchase lands or interests in lands only from willing sellers.
Amend the title so as to read:
A bill 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
PURPOSE OF THE BILL
The purpose of H.R. 1964, as reported, is 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.
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION
The Northeastern Highlands is a geographic region that
encompasses over two million acres stretching from western
Connecticut across the Lower Hudson River Valley and northern
New Jersey into east central Pennsylvania. About 1.4 million
people live in the Highlands Region, which is adjacent to one
of the most populous metropolitan areas of the United States,
and is the source of the region's drinking water. The Region is
also home to a number of endangered species and cultural
The overall purpose of the Highlands Conservation Act is to
promote conservation of critical natural resources and priority
conservation lands identified in the U.S. Forest Service's
update of the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional Study and
state open space plans. As reported, the bill would authorize
$10 million annually over ten years for land conservation
partnership projects, and $1 million a year over ten years for
U.S. Forest Service studies and technical assistance to private
landowners and local communities.
H.R. 1964 was introduced on May 6, 2003, by Congressman
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). The bill was referred to the
Committee on Resources, and additionally to the Committee on
Agriculture. With the Committee on Resources, the bill was
referred to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and
Public Lands. The Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation,
and Public Lands held a hearing on the bill on June 17, 2003.
On October 29, 2003, the Full Resources Committee met to
consider the bill. The Subcommittee on National Parks,
Recreation and Public Lands was discharged from further
consideration of the bill by unanimous consent. Congressman
Richard Pombo (R-CA) offered an amendment in the nature of a
substitute that: (1) eliminated the Office of Highlands
Stewardship and accompanying regulatory processes; (2) reduced
the authorization of appropriation from $25 million annually to
$10 million annually over ten years; (3) identified within the
Highlands region lands having high conservation value, thereby
focusing conservation on only those resources that are most
important; (4) clarified that the bill would not establish a
wholly new programmatic category of land use; and (5) assured
landowners located within the Highlands Region that private
property rights will be protected by including safeguards for
those landowners. The amendment was adopted by voice vote. The
bill, as amended, was ordered favorably reported to the House
of Representatives by voice vote.
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations
are reflected in the body of this report.
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT
Article I, section 8, and Article IV, section 3, of the
Constitution of the United States grants Congress the authority
to enact this bill.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII
1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B)
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2)
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this
bill does not contain any new budget authority, spending
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in
revenues or tax expenditures.
3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goal or
objective of this bill is to assist the States of Connecticut,
New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in conserving priority
lands and natural resources in the Highlands region.
4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause
3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, November 6, 2003.
Hon. Richard W. Pombo,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1964, the
Highlands Conservation Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis.
H.R. 1964--Highlands Conservation Act
Summary: H.R. 1964 would authorize the appropriation of $11
million annually for fiscal years 2005 through 2014 for land
preservation in the highlands area of the eastern United
States. Most of this funding would be used by the Department of
the Interior (DOI) to provide grants to four specified states:
Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The
eligible states would use the grant funds to acquire land or
other real property interests. About $1 million annually would
finance U.S. Forest Service activities in the highlands area.
CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1964 would cost $44
million through 2008 (and an additional $66 million over the
2009-2014 period), assuming appropriation of the authorized
amounts. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues or direct
H.R. 1964 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated
budgetary impact of H.R. 1964 over the 2004-2008 period is
shown in the following table. The costs of this legislation
fall within budget function 300 (natural resources and
By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
Authorization Level................................................ 0 11 11 11 11
Estimated Outlays.................................................. 0 11 11 11 11
Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes that the
amounts authorized will be appropriated for each fiscal year.
Of the $11 million authorized for each year, $10 million would
be used by DOI for matching grants to finance land protection
projects in the eligible states. The remaining $1 million would
be used by the Forest Service to continue its research of the
area and its assistance to the four states. No specific amounts
were appropriated for these purposes for fiscal years 2003 and
2004. Estimated outlays are based on historical spending
patterns for similar programs.
Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 1964
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as
defined in UMRA and would impose no costs on state, local, or
tribal governments. Enacting this legislation would benefit the
states of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania
because it would authorize federal assistance for conservation
projects in those states. Any costs they might incur to comply
with the conditions of that assistance would be voluntary.
Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Deborah Reis; Impact
on State, Local, and Tribal Governments; Marjorie Miller; and
Impact on the Private Sector: Selena Caldera.
Estimate approved by: Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4
This bill contains no unfunded mandates.
PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW
This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
If enacted, this bill would make no changes to existing