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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 
following:

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 
        northwestern Connecticut.
          (2) The Highlands region is an environmentally unique area 
        that--
                  (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 
                visitors annually;
                  (E) provides other significant ecological, natural, 
                tourism, recreational, educational, and economic 
                benefits; and
                  (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 
        region.
          (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 
        Highlands region--
                  (A) reduce the availability and quality of water;
                  (B) reduce air quality;
                  (C) fragment the forests;
                  (D) destroy critical migration corridors and forest 
                habitat; and
                  (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 
                Redevelopment Plan;
                  (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 
                Pennsylvania; and
                  (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, 
                New York;
                  (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 
                Connecticut.
          (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 
        region.

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 
        region.
          (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 
        region.

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 
        Connecticut.
          (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 
        Commission.
          (5) Study.--The term ``study'' means the New York-New Jersey 
        Highlands Regional Study conducted by the Forest Service in 
        1990.
          (6) Update.--The term ``update'' means the New York-New 
        Jersey Highlands Regional Study: 2002 Update conducted by the 
        Forest Service.

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 
Interior that--
          (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; 
                and
          (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 
                study.
                  (B) Conservation Focal Areas portion of the Forest 
                Service update.
                  (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 
partnership project.
  (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 
construed to--
          (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 
purposes.

                          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 
landmarks.
    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.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    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 
Office:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               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.
            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

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 
spending.
    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 
environment).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       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 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes to existing 
law.