Highlands Council

About the Highlands Council

This webpage was created for Hunterdon County municipalities and their residents to facilitate a greater understanding of the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. The links and resources provided here will help you to interpret the law and determine whether or not the Highlands Act will have a direct impact on you.

The Hunterdon County Planning Board (HCPB) encourages municipalities to contact us with questions, comments and concerns regarding the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, please phone 908-788-1490 or email.

However, we recommend you call New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and discuss it directly with them to determine whether or not you meet the definition of major development or qualify for an exemption, etc. Their number at the Division of Watershed Management is 609-984-6888.

Overview of the Highlands Water Protection & Planning Act

There is a difference between the NJ "Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act" (A Number 2635) signed in to law on August 10, 2004 by Governor McGreevy and the federal "Highlands Conservation Act" (HR 1964) signed into law on November 30, 2004 by President Bush.

  • A2635 was created to preserve and protect the Highlands Region of NJ, a source of drinking water for many NJ residents. This Act sets the boundary lines for the region as a whole and delineates the boundary between the "Preservation Area" and the "Planning Area". It created the 15 member Highlands Council, which will be creating a regional master plan over an 18 month period. Also, it sets the NJDEP environmental standards to be applied to all new "Major Development" in the Preservation Area
  • HR1964 is the Federal bill that authorizes Congress to appropriate $100 million in Federal monies over a 10-year time frame towards land preservation and protection in NJ, NY, PA and CT.

Highlands Preservation Area

Of the over 800,000 acres that make up New Jersey's Highlands Region, the Highlands Act designates approximately 398,000 acres of exceptional natural resource value as the Highlands Preservation Area. Approximately 145,000 acres within the Highlands Preservation Area are undeveloped. All of the land in the Highlands Region that is not in the Highlands Preservation Area lies within the Highlands Planning Area. A complete description of the Highlands Preservation Area boundaries is set forth in Section 7 of the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. (Source: NJDEP)

Other Resources