Working to protect critical land and water resources in the Garden State from pollution and overdevelopment. Main focus includes NJ Highlands, the Pinelands, and Barnegat Bay.
New Jersey Highlands
The New Jersey Highlands is 80,000 acres of largely contiguous forest stretching from Northwest Bergen County to Northern Hunterdon County. The Highlands is one of New Jersey’s most important natural resources and is critical to New Jersey’s environment and economy.
The New Jersey Highlands Protection Act is one of New Jersey’s most important drinking water laws. Since passage of this landmark law, Clean Water Action has been working to implement and strengthen the Highlands Regional Master Plan. In addition, we helped secure a Highlands Executive Order (EO) that addresses some of the master plan’s flaws and strengthens the document further by ensuring little to no growth in preservation zone communities.
Unfortunately, the Highlands Council, charged with implementing this law, consists of very weak members, including Jim Rilee, a known OPPONENT of the Highlands Act itself! We believe in common sense, however its not common sense to put someone in charge of implementing a law they don’t believe in. Clean Water Action will continue working to ensure the Highlands Regional Master Plan is the most protective it can be and the towns fully comply within the mandated time table.
At the same time, we will maintain a keen eye on local development projects for their consistency with the overall Highlands protection strategy.
The Importance of Protecting the Highlands
- The Highlands Region serves 4.6 million (half of NJ) residents with drinking water outside the region. An additional 850,000 people who live within the Highlands also draw water from the ecosystem.
- Our 3 largest industries (food processing, recreation-tourism-fishing and pharmaceuticals) are all dependent on the Highlands for water.
- More recreational visitors go to the NY-New Jersey Highlands each year than Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon National parks combined, making the Highlands an integral component of New Jersey’s eco-tourism economy.
- Nearly 150 threatened and endangered species call the New Jersey Highlands their home.
- More than 110 out of the 183 subwatersheds in the Highlands are in water deficit today. 3-5,000 acres of the Highlands are lost to development every year.
- If the Highlands are not adequately protected, the cost for additional water treatment (excluding health care costs) in its service area alone would be $100 billion over the next 50 years.