What We Protect
HIGHLANDS PLAN FOR CITIZENS
Suburban sprawl, overdevelopment, and poor planning threaten the resources of the New Jersey Highlands. Some 3,000 acres of the Highlands’ forests and farmlands were lost to development every year, having adverse effects on the Highlands’ valuable resources.
Our water supply – so critical to the life and health of the State’s residents, as well as its economy and ecosystems – is at risk. Development replaces water-retentive forests with impervious hard surfaces, like buildings, roads and parking lots. Water no longer finds its way underground to supply wells and replenish stream flows and reservoirs. In addition, impervious cover increases surface water pollution and flooding problems, and removal of native vegetation and forests leads to declines in water quality.
At the same time, growth both in and outside of the Highlands is increasing demand for Highlands water. Growing areas like Newark and Jersey City, across 16 counties, including Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Passaic, and Union counties, depend on the Highlands for water,as do New Jersey’s three largest industries — food processing, tourism, and pharmaceuticals. Yet, demand for water already exceeds availability in over half (54%) of Highlands watersheds!
The bottom line: if development continues without intervention, there won’t be clean water, or enough water, for everyone.
Forests, Biodiversity, and Wildlife
Development consumes forests, converting them to buildings, roads, parking lots, and lawns. From 1986 to 2002, over 15,000 acres of Highlands forests disappeared. Reduction in forest area means our water will suffer, as forests help maintain the water supply and protect water quality.
If sprawl continues and forests are replaced by subdivisions, townhouses and condos, wildlife lose their homes. In addition, when forests are fragmented into smaller and smaller tracts, it destroys critical habitat for interior forest-dwelling species, such as the bobcat, which is now endangered in New Jersey, and forest birds such as thrushes, ovenbirds, scarlet tanagers, and some warblers.