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                                                       Calendar No. 735
108th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 2d Session                                                     108-376
======================================================================
 
                       HIGHLANDS CONSERVATION ACT

                                _______
                                

               September 28, 2004.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Domenici, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1964]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the Act (H.R. 1964) 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, having considered the 
same, reports favorably thereon with an amendment and 
recommends that the Act, as amended, do pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
    Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu 
thereof the following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Highlands Conservation Act''.

SEC. 2. PURPOSES.

  The purposes of this Act are--
          (1) to recognize the importance of the water, forest, 
        agricultural, wildlife, recreational, and cultural resources of 
        the Highlands region, 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 land in the Highlands 
        region; and
          (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 land and natural resources in the Highlands 
        region.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

  In this Act:
          (1) Highlands region.--The term ``Highlands region'' means 
        the area depicted on the map entitled ``The Highlands Region'', 
        dated June 2004, including the list of municipalities included 
        in the Highlands region, and maintained in the headquarters of 
        the Forest Service in Washington, District of Columbia.
          (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; and
                  (D) the State of Pennsylvania.
          (3) Land conservation partnership project.--The term ``land 
        conservation partnership project'' means a land conservation 
        project--
                  (A) located in the Highlands region;
                  (B) identified by the Forest Service in the Study, 
                the Update, or any subsequent Pennsylvania and 
                Connecticut Update as having high conservation value; 
                and
                  (C) in which a non-Federal entity acquires land or an 
                interest in land from a willing seller to permanently 
                protect, conserve, or preserve the land through a 
                partnership with the Federal Government.
          (4) Non-federal entity.--The term ``non-Federal entity'' 
        means--
                  (A) any Highlands State; or
                  (B) 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.
          (7) Pennsylvania and connecticut update.--The term 
        ``Pennsylvania and Connecticut Update'' means a report to be 
        completed by the Forest Service that identifies areas having 
        high conservation values in the States of Connecticut and 
        Pennsylvania in a manner similar to that utilized in the Study 
        and Update.

SEC. 4. LAND CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP PROJECTS IN THE HIGHLANDS REGION.

  (a) Submission of Proposed Projects.--Each year, the governors of the 
Highlands States, with input from pertinent units of local government 
and the public, may--
          (1) jointly identify land conservation partnership projects 
        in the Highlands region from land identified as having high 
        conservation values in the Study, the Update, or the 
        Pennsylvania and Connecticut Update that shall be proposed for 
        Federal financial assistance; and
          (2) submit a list of those projects to the Secretary of the 
        Interior.
  (b) Consideration of Projects.--Each year, the Secretary of the 
Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, shall 
submit to Congress a list of the land conservation partnership projects 
submitted under subsection (a)(2) 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 under subsection (d);
          (3) describes the management objectives for the land that 
        will ensure 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--
                  (A) may seek specific performance of the conditions 
                of financial assistance in accordance with paragraph 
                (3) in Federal court; and
                  (B) 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--
                          (i) the total amount of the financial 
                        assistance provided for the project by the 
                        Federal Government under this section; or
                          (ii) 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--
                  (A) the Important Areas portion of the Study;
                  (B) the Conservation Focal Areas portion of the 
                Update;
                  (C) the Conservation Priorities portion of the 
                Update;
                  (D) land identified as having higher or highest 
                resource value in the Conservation Values Assessment 
                portion of the Update; and
                  (E) land identified as having high conservation value 
                in the Pennsylvania and Connecticut 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 $10,000,000 for each of 
fiscal years 2005 through 2014, to remain available until expended.

SEC. 5. FOREST SERVICE AND USDA PROGRAMS IN THE HIGHLANDS REGION.

  (a) In General.--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 land 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 in the Highlands region consistent 
        with the purposes of this Act, including a Pennsylvania and 
        Connecticut Update;
          (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 fiscal years 2005 through 2014.

SEC. 6. PRIVATE PROPERTY PROTECTION AND LACK OF REGULATORY EFFECT.

  (a) Access to Private Property.--Nothing in this Act--
          (1) requires a private property owner to permit public access 
        (including Federal, State, or local government access) to 
        private property; or
          (2) modifies any provision of Federal, State, or local law 
        with regard to public access to, or use of, private land.
  (b) Liability.--Nothing in this Act creates any liability, or has any 
effect on liability under any other law, of a private property owner 
with respect to any persons injured on the private property.
  (c) Recognition of Authority to Control Land Use.--Nothing in this 
Act modifies any authority of Federal, State, or local governments to 
regulate land use.
  (d) Participation of Private Property Owners.--Nothing in this Act 
requires 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 Land or Interests in Land From Willing Sellers 
Only.--Funds appropriated to carry out this Act shall be used to 
purchase land or interests in land only from willing sellers.

                         PURPOSE OF THE MEASURE

    The purpose of H.R. 1964 is to assist the States of 
Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in 
conserving priority lands and natural resources in the 
Highlands region.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    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 area's drinking water. The Highland 
Region is also home to a number of endangered species and 
cultural landmarks.
    H.R. 1964 extends the area considered in the 2002 Forest 
Service update of the New York-New Jersey Highlands Region 
Study into northwestern Connecticut and southwest into 
Pennsylvania, and from the Delaware River, southwest to 
Harrisburg and York, Pennsylvania.
    The overall purpose of the Highlands Conservation Act is to 
promote conservation of critical natural resources and priority 
conservation lands identified in the Forest Service's update of 
the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional Study. The bill 
would authorize $10 million annually over ten years in grants 
to the affected states for land conservation partnership 
projects, and $1 million annually over ten years for Forest 
Service studies and technical assistance to private landowners 
and local communities.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    H.R. 1964 was introduced on May 6, 2003, by Congressman 
Rodney Frelinghuysen for himself and others. The House of 
Representatives passed H.R. 1964, as amended, by a voice vote 
on November 21, 2003. The Subcommittee on Public Lands and 
Forests held a hearing on H.R. 1964 on March 24, 2004 (S. Hrg. 
108-531). A companion measure, S. 999 was introduced by Senator 
Corzine and others on May 6, 2003. Similar language was also 
adopted as a Senate amendment to H.R. 1964, the Healthy Forests 
Restoration Act. The bill passed the Senate, as amendment on 
October 30, 2003, although the Highlands title was not included 
in the conference report. At its business meeting on September 
15, 2004, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ordered 
H.R. 1964 to be favorably reported with amendments.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in 
open business session on September 15, 2004, by a unanimous 
voice vote, of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate 
pass H.R. 1964, if amended as described herein.

                          COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS

    During the consideration of H.R. 1964, the Committee 
adopted an amendment in the nature of a substitute deleting 
section 2 (containing congressional findings) and renumbering 
the following sections. It replaces the written description of 
the area with a map indicating the boundaries of the Highlands 
region. It also directs and authorizes the Forest Service to 
complete a study for those lands that have been added in the 
States of Connecticut and Pennsylvania and It clarifies the 
process under which areas within the Highlands region are to be 
recommended to the Secretary of the Interior for acquisition. 
Finally, the amendment includes standard language authorizing 
appropriations.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1 provides the short title.
    Section 2 states the purposes, which include authorizing 
the Secretary of the Interior to provide financial assistance 
to the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and 
Pennsylvania to preserve and protect high priority conservation 
lands in the Highlands Region.
    Section 3 defines key terms used in the bill.
    Section 4 (a) directs the Governors of the States of 
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to annually 
submit proposed partnership projects to the Secretary of the 
Interior for Federal financial assistance.
    Subsection (b) directs the Secretary of the Interior, in 
consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, to annually 
submit a list of partnership projects to Congress that are 
eligible to receive financial assistance.
    Subsection (c) describes the conditions for eligibility.
    Subsection (d) directs that the Federal share of any 
project shall not exceed 50 percent of the total costs.
    Subsection (e) authorizes up to $10,000,000 annually to be 
appropriated from the general fund of the Treasury for land 
conservation projects identified in the section.
    Section 6 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to 
provide technical and financial assistance to the affected 
States, local units of government and others, using technical 
and financial assistance programs of the Department of 
Agriculture, including undertaking other studies and research. 
Further, it authorizes the appropriations of $1,000,000 
annually to carry out this section.
    Section 7 directs that funds appropriated under the Act 
shall be used to purchase lands or interests only from willing 
sellers. It directs that private land owners are not compelled 
to permit public access, or modify any provision of Federal, 
State, or local law with regard to public access. Additionally, 
the section directs that nothing in the Act shall be construed 
to modify any authority of Federal, State, or local government 
to regulate land use.

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office.

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 as 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.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out H.R. 1964.
    The bill is not a regulatory measure in the sense of 
imposing Government-established standards or significant 
economic responsibilities on private individuals and 
businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of H.R. 1964.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    On September 11, 2003, the Committee on Energy and Natural 
Resources requested legislative reports from the Department of 
the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget setting 
forth Executive agency recommendations on H.R. 1964. These 
reports had not been received when this report was filed. The 
testimony provided by the Department of the Interior at the 
Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 1964 follows:

Statement of David Tenny, Deputy Undersecretary, Natural Resources and 
              Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear 
before you today in order to provide the Department's views on 
H.R. 1964 The Highlands Conservation Act, S. 2180 to direct the 
Secretary of Agriculture to exchange certain lands in the 
Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in the State of Colorado 
and S. 433 The Clearwater Basin Project Act. I am accompanied 
today by, Marcus Phelps, Highlands Coordinator of the Forest 
Service Northeastern Area.
    H.R. 1964, the Highlands Conservation Act would authorize 
the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture 
to work with States, local units of government, and private 
landowners in the conservation of lands and natural resources 
in the Highlands region of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, 
and Pennsylvania.
    The Department defers to the Department of the Interior for 
general views on the bill but would like to offer several 
comments on section 6 of the bill as well as a brief discussion 
regarding the Department's previous and ongoing work within the 
Highlands.
    H.R. 1964 directs the Secretary of Agriculture, acting 
through the Chief of the Forest Service and in consultation 
with the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, 
to 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. H.R. 1964 would authorize appropriations of $1,000,000 
to the Secretary of the Agriculture for each of fiscal years 
2005 through 2014 to carry out this section.
    At the direction of Congress, in 1992, the USDA Forest 
Service completed the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional 
Study that characterized the water resources, wildlife habitat, 
outdoor recreation opportunities, and agricultural resources in 
the region. This study identified lands with important resource 
values such as the Sterling Forest located near Tuxedo, NY.
    At the direction of Congress, the Forest Service updated 
the New York-New Jersey Highlands Regional Study in 2002. The 
original study area was expanded from the Hudson River eastward 
to the New York-Connecticut border. The Update identifies a 
number of many important natural resources in the Highlands, 
and the effect of existing patterns of land use change on these 
resources. Some key findings from the 2002 Update include:
     The Highlands adjoin a metropolitan area of more 
than 20 million people.
     More than 11 million people rely on the Highlands 
water resources.
     More than 14 million people visit the Highlands 
each year for recreational opportunities.
     5,200 acres per year of land was developed between 
1995 and 2000.
     Almost 40 percent, 540,000 acres, are considered 
to have high conservation value. Nearly half of these lands are 
currently in some type of permanent conservation arrangement, 
such as an easement or under a nonprofit land trust holding.
     Approximately 100,000 acres considered to have 
high conservation value have a high likelihood of change.
     Forty two of the 51 existing Hydrologic Unit Code 
11 watersheds (which have an average area of about 50 square 
miles) presently have 10 percent or less impervious surface 
cover (a significant indicator of water quality). Depending on 
the rate of land use change, the number of Hydrologic Unit Code 
11 watersheds with less than 10 percent or less of impervious 
surface cover could fall from 42 to about 9 to 18 in the next 
thirty years.
     The future population in the New Jersey-New York 
Highlands could increase by 26 to 48 percent in the next 30 
years, based on our analysis.
    In addition to updating the 1992 Study, Congress directed 
the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to jointly 
develop a set of recommendations identifying ways that Federal 
government can work with State, local and non-profit partners 
to address important resource issues, based on the findings of 
the 1992 Study and 2002 Update.
    Our efforts to address these findings continue in the New 
York and New Jersey portions of the Highlands region through a 
Forest Service staff position established to coordinate and 
implement conservation strategies, and the ongoing support of 
an internet mapping system at Rutgers University to provide 
direct access to study data and maps. Also, a recent regional 
meeting held at the Lautenberg Visitor Center in what is now 
the Sterling Forest State Park in Tuxedo, New York, brought 
together, for the first time, representatives of the various 
Federal agencies involved with the Highlands region to share 
information and identify ways to improve inter-agency 
communication and coordination.
    Over the past 10 years, the Forest Legacy program has 
protected 3444 acres with $4,200,000 in Federal funds that has 
leveraged over $14,000,000 in non-federal funds in New Jersey 
and New York. Over the last five years, the Forest Legacy 
program has provided $14,300,000 of funding that is expected to 
protect over 8,700 acres in the New Jersey Highlands and to 
leverage over $32 million of state and private partner funds 
for land conservation. In addition, the Forest Service has 
provided assistance to private landowners, nonprofits and State 
and local governments, through a range of Forest Service non-
regulatory, cooperative programs of more than $1,000,000 toward 
land conservation activities in those two states. These include 
technical and financial assistance to states and communities 
and landowner assistance for management planning and 
implementation of conservation practices.
    I want to bring to the Committee some issues that the 
Department has identified with H.R. 1964 that may require 
further consideration by the Committee.
    First, the legislation covers a four-state region. The 
Department's efforts to date have concentrated on the 1.5 
million acre New York-New Jersey portion of the region, and 
have only generally characterized the resource values and 
boundaries of the Pennsylvania and Connecticut portions of the 
Highlands. More thorough consideration and inventory of the 
resource values in Pennsylvania and Connecticut is needed. In 
addition, the committee may wish to consider adding language 
that would direct the Secretaries to prepare a map to delineate 
the Highlands Conservation Area and eliminate any uncertainty 
regarding the area within projects would be eligible for 
assistance.
    To our knowledge, the bill does not authorize any activity 
by the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture that is 
not already authorized under current law. USDA could designate 
the Highlands area as a high priority within existing 
authorities to permit its agencies to address resource issues 
in the Highlands region. The bill's targeting of technical 
assistance, financial assistance, and land conservation 
projects could require USDA to determine the priority of these 
activities relative to other high-priority programs or projects 
that may rely on the same funding source.
                                ------                                


   Statement of Robert W. McIntosh, Associate Regional Director for 
  Planning and Partnerships, Northeast Region, National Park Service, 
                       Department of the Interior

    Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the 
views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 1964, 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.
    The Highlands Region, comprising more than 2 million acres 
in one of the most urbanized sections of the country, contains 
numerous natural and cultural resources worthy of protection. 
It is a water supply source for over 11,000,000 persons, 
provides critical habitat to a wide variety of plant and animal 
species, and is the site of many historic events that have 
shaped our nation including significant actions related to the 
American Revolution. It is also an area rapidly experiencing 
the impacts of urbanization.
    The Highlands Region also contains units of the National 
Park System including Morristown National Historical Park, 
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, and the Delaware Water 
Gap National Recreation Area; designated Wild and Scenic Rivers 
including the Upper Delaware and Farmington Rivers; and two 
designated national heritage areas--The Hudson River Valley 
National Heritage Area and the Delaware and Lehigh National 
Heritage Corridor. The National Park Service has enjoyed long-
standing partnerships with the States and many of the 
governments and organizations in this region.
    The Department of the Interior (Department) looks forward 
to continuing this productive relationship with the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, the four states, local governments, 
and many present and new partners in the Highlands Region as 
we, together, strive to protect natural, historic, and cultural 
resources. We believe, however, that the goals of the bill can 
be best achieved through existing public and private 
partnerships between the Federal government, the States, local 
jurisdictions and the private sector, without earmarking funds 
from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act.
    On June 17, 2003, the Department testified before the House 
Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands on 
H.R. 1964. During that testimony, the Department indicated that 
it would defer to the position of the USDA, who was the lead 
agency in H.R. 1964, as introduced. We also cited concerns 
about cost and identified a number of existing programs that 
could meet the needs of the Highlands Region. During markup, 
H.R. 1964 was amended in several ways, including designating 
the Department rather than the USDA as the lead agency. For 
these and other reasons discussed below, the Department does 
not support this bill. We continue to defer to the USDA 
regarding provisions of the bill affecting the Forest Service.
    The Highlands Region has been the subject of many past 
studies described in the bill that document its important 
natural and cultural resources. In 1992, the Forest Service 
completed its initial study of a portion of the Highlands 
Region as described in the bill, which was authorized by the 
1990 Farm Bill. The study supported land stewardship and 
watershed-based planning activities, identified voluntary and 
non-regulatory means to protect important areas, fostered 
public awareness of the region's resources, and identified 
priority areas for protection. In 2000, under Representative 
Frelinghuysen's leadership, Congress recognized the need to 
revisit the study's findings and authorized an update in Public 
Law 106-291. The Forest Service completed the update in 2003 
with the National Park Service providing comments on the draft 
report. The draft report is the product of extensive public 
participation across the Highlands Region, including 
involvement by members of the working group from over 120 
municipalities, non-profit groups, private groups, and citizens 
in 12 counties as well as other Federal agencies and members of 
Congress.
    Congress requested that at the conclusion of the update, 
the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior report on how they 
will work together to implement the recommendations of the 
study. In the draft report, three recommendations are provided 
for a continued Federal role in the Highlands Region including 
supporting the stewardship of the Highlands Region, ensuring 
the availability of science-based information, and partnering 
in local land stewardship activities. This report is currently 
pending interagency review.
    As we mentioned in our previous testimony, we see many 
opportunities for participation in the Highlands Region through 
existing programs of the Department. Projects within the region 
may qualify for Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance and 
Wild and Scenic Rivers assistance, and the LWCF, among others. 
Through our Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, 
we are working with local groups along the Delaware and Hudson 
Canal to create a 220-mile network of trails (including water 
trails), scenic railroads, and scenic byways. H.R. 1964 would 
authorize appropriations of $100 million from the LWCF, or from 
the general funds of the Treasury, over 10 years beginning in 
FY 2005. We believe that financial assistance to the region 
should continue through existing authorities of the Department. 
For example, the Department has made LWCF grants available to 
the four States totaling over $46.6 million between 2000 and 
2003. Through the LWCF program, Rockaway Township in the 
Highlands Region in the State of New Jersey recently acquired 
294 acres of land adjacent to the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife 
Management Area for trails, low impact recreation, and to 
protect open space inhabited by endangered species including 
the threatened Bald Eagle.
    We have consistently opposed earmarking the state grant 
portion of LWCF because it circumvents state authority for 
determining its own priorities for use of fund monies through 
the comprehensive statewide outdoor recreation planning 
process. It potentially affects the amounts available to the 
other states that rely on this program. Significant protection 
can be accomplished through grants to the states as they choose 
to prioritize acquisitions and projects in the Highlands Region 
under the current provisions of Section 6 of the LWCF Act. We 
also would have concerns if the funds for this bill came from 
the general funds of the Treasury because we are trying to 
focus our resources on taking care of our current 
responsibilities in our national parks.
    This concludes my testimony. I would be pleased to answer 
any questions the Committee may have this bill.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law made by the act H.R. 1964 as ordered 
reported.