Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Public Law No: 108-421 (11/30/2004)

Highlands Conservation Act - (Sec. 2) Sets forth the purposes of this Act, including authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to provide financial assistance to the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania (Highland States) to preserve and protect high priority conservation land in the Highlands region, an area depicted on a National Forest Service map entitled "The Highlands Region" dated June 2004.

(Sec. 4) Authorizes the governors of the Highland States to annually submit proposed land conservation partnership projects to the Secretary for Federal financial assistance. Defines "land conservation partnership project" as a project located in the Highlands region that is identified by the Forest Service in specified studies as having a high conservation value, and in which a non-Federal entity (i.e., any Highlands State or any agency of a Highlands State with authority to own and manage land for conservation purposes) acquires land from a willing seller to permanently protect, conserve, or preserve the land through a partnership with the Federal Government. Directs the Secretary to annually submit to Congress a list of projects that are eligible for financial assistance. Sets forth eligibility conditions for financial assistance to non-Federal entities.

Limits the Federal share of the cost of any land conservation partnership project to 50 percent. Authorizes appropriations for FY 2005 through FY 2014.

(Sec. 5) Directs the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the Forest Service, to continue to assist the Highland States and other public and private entities in the conservation of land and natural resources in the Highlands region. Authorizes appropriations for FY 2005 through FY 2014.

(Sec. 6) Prohibits anything in this Act from: (1) requiring a private property owner to permit public access, including access by any government, to private property; (2) modifying any law on public access to, or use of, private land; (3) creating any liability of a private property owner for persons injured on the private property; (4) modifying any governmental authority to regulate land use; and (5) requiring private property owners in the Highlands region to participate in the land conservation, financial, or technical assistance programs established by this Act. Provides that funds appropriated under this Act shall be used to purchase land or interests in land only from willing sellers.