The Region: The New Jersey Highlands is a 1,343 square mile area in the northwest part of the state noted for is scenic beauty and environmental significance. The region stretches from Phillipsburg in the southwest to Ringwood in the northeast, and lies within portions of seven counties (Hunterdon, Somerset, Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen) and includes 88 municipalities.
Drinking Water: The Highlands yields approximately 379 million gallons of water daily and is a vital source of drinking water for over 5 million residents of New Jersey. Protecting New Jersey’s drinking water is critically important to maintaining the future economic viability of the entire state.
Natural Resources: The Highlands’ diverse natural communities, including its extensive forests, wetlands, rivers, and streams, are of statewide importance. Over 70 percent of its lands are environmentally sensitive.
Open Space and Recreation: The Highlands provides fresh air, open space, and recreation opportunities for millions of residents of the greater New Jersey metropolitan area.
Economy: Recreation, eco-tourism, and wildlife activities continue to play an important role in the local economy of the area.
Sprawl: The Highlands is increasingly at risk of being overdeveloped. Within a five year period (1995-2000), the Highlands lost 17,000 acres of forests and 8,000 acres of farmland. Growth pressures continue to consume land at a rate of approximately 3,000 acres every year. Development is threatening the region’s significant natural resources and the state’s drinking water supply.
Regional Growth: While growth management efforts by individual municipalities continue under the Municipal Land Use Law, the state legislature determined that a coordinated regional effort is necessary to safeguard the Highlands Region. The Highlands Act provides the necessary mechanism to enhance local land use planning efforts.