Senators Push For Highlands Funding

Senators Push For Highlands Funding

Legislators urge support for land conservation projects

Washington - In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) urged the inclusion of at least $2 million in funding for the Highlands Conservation Act for the remaining fiscal year. This landmark legislation authorizes $11 million per year over ten years for land conservation and technical assistant projects in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, including $10 million per year for Land Conservation Partnership Projects funded through the Department of the Interior.

The administration's 2007 fiscal year budget included $2 million for the Highlands, and the House and Senate Appropriations committees both included funding for the Highlands in their respective bills. However, the continuing resolution that covers federal government funding for the remainder of 2007 does not require the Interior Department to financially back the Highlands. Because of this, the senators are asking the department to follow the clear wishes of both the administration and Congress by funding the Highlands.

"From providing clean drinking water, to protecting animals, to supplying beautiful scenery, this land is a vital part of the health and wellbeing of our communities," Menendez said. "It is imperative that the Highlands be funded at the levels agreed to by both the House and the Senate."

"The Highlands is one of New Jersey's most important natural regions," said Lautenberg. "That is why the Bush Administration and Congress must work to provide the necessary funds for important land conservation projects so those in New Jersey who depend on the Highlands for drinking water, recreation and natural beauty aren't shortchanged."

"This funding will protect a tremendous natural treasure," said Dodd. "The pristine Highlands provide millions of gallons of drinking water, a home to threatened or endangered species, and recreational areas for Americans to enjoy, so it is essential that we protect and conserve this habitat for the benefit of future generations."

"The Highlands forest is a magnificent natural habitat and valuable natural resource in Northwest Connecticut," Lieberman said. "I join my colleagues in urging the Interior Department to provide the necessary funding to conserve this important open space, its wildlife, and the drinking water it supplies."

"This funding is crucial to protecting quality drinking water to more than 11 million people in the four-state region, recreational land and open space in the Highlands providing habitat to many endangered species of plants and animals," Schumer said. "With the pressure of sprawl constantly increasing and threatening our open spaces, we need to take steps to make sure that the clean air, water, and environment that New Yorkers enjoy today survive for future generations. This funding would mark a big step forward in that effort."

"It is vital that we continue to preserve our open space in the New York metropolitan region and the Lower Hudson Valley. This funding is not only necessary for the environmental health of the Highlands, it is also crucial in preserving essential natural resources that have a significant impact on the quality of life of residents. I strongly urge the Secretary to support this funding so that the Highlands of New York, as well as the surrounding states can have the protection that they need and deserve," Senator Clinton said.

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