On November 18th, Environmental Defense extended accolades to the House and Senate for passing the Highlands Conservation Act and urged President Bush to sign the bill into law immediately.
"With this step, four states and Congress have joined together in a unique, bi-partisan partnership to protect wildlife, open space and drinking water at the leading edge of sprawl," said Jim Tripp, general counsel of Environmental Defense and chair of the Highlands Coalition. "The Highlands Act is a blueprint for economic growth that leaves intact the natural resources most essential to health, quality of life and the natural world. The bill will now stimulate a joint effort by the four Governors, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior and the Congress to identify high priority land conservation partnerships that will benefit this entire region."
As a member of the original workgroup that drafted the bill, Environmental Defense helped guide the bill from an idea to reality. Tripp today called the overwhelming bi-partisan support for the effort "invigorating" and thanked Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) for leading the bill through the process. Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) also played key roles in assuring passage in the Senate.
The House joined the Senate in passing the legislation, which will protect unique watershed land in the 3.5 million acres of the eastern ridges of the Appalachians in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The Highlands Act results from an unprecedented collaboration among the four states to create a framework within which growth and real estate investment can occur in ways that protect essential habitat and open space.
Located within four of the most densely populated states, the Highlands is within a 2-hour drive of 1 in 9 people in the U.S. The Highlands provide water for more than 10 million people and attract more recreation visits than the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
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