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July 13, 2010

The 860,000 acres of forests, wetlands, grasslands and farmland that make up the New Jersey Highlands are protected from unrestricted development -- for now. The U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected without comment a challenge to the Highland Water Protection and Planning Act of 2004. The 1,343 square mile region in the northwest part of the state provides 370 millions of gallons of drinking water to 5 million of the state’s residents. It was for this reason that New Jersey moved to protect the Highlands (which runs through 90 of the state’s municipalities), dividing it into two sections: roughly 415,000 acres for preservation and 444,000 for a planning area that must conform to the state’s master development plan. Farmers, some residents and other landowners have fought the creation of the region, arguing that it reduces equity since the land is restricted from development. Still, the Highlands will continue to face challenges. Landowners promise to pursue further legal challenges and the Christie administration has reduced funding for its watchdog agency, the Highlands Council.

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