About Us
Water rushes over rocks at the outlet of a pond at the Pine Mountain Preserve in Norfolk, Connecticut. This property has been protected with the assistance of the Highlands Conservation Act and offers hiking trails accessible to the public.

In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed the Highlands Conservation Act, authorizing the Department of the Interior, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to provide grant funding to state agencies to purchase and conserve land from willing sellers. This funding is appropriated annually under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and each grant is matched at least dollar for dollar by the recipient.

The Highlands Conservation Act authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service to work together to help the Highland states, local governments, non-profits and private landowners to conserve the land and natural resources of the Highlands region.

Prior to the passage of the Highlands Conservation Act, the U.S. Forest Service conducted several biological studies within the region to identify key natural areas, including critical watersheds, wildlife habitats, farmlands and forests and prioritize work in these areas. These studies inform conservation actions under the Act and unite partners to work towards a common goal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works closely with states and partners to safeguard wildlife and connect people with nature. Since the passage of the Highlands Conservation Act in 2004, 12,766 acres of vital conservation land have been permanently protected.

The Stewardship goals and priority resources under the Act include:

  • Safeguarding Water Supplies
  • Conserving Forests
  • Protecting Wildlife
  • Expanding Outdoor Public Recreation Opportunities
  • Saving Agricultural Resources
Our Mission

People depend on the health and resilience of land, water and wildlife resources. Conservation of these resources provides clean drinking water and clean air, recreational opportunities, and supports local communities and economies.

Projects supported by the Highlands Conservation Act grant program address key conservation objectives laid out under the Highlands Conservation Act. These projects prioritize important stewardship goals such as:


Clean water

The Highlands Region is one of the most densely populated in the nation, and home to many streams, lakes, and other important water resources such as underground aquifers. Water resources sustain fish and wildlife and provide ample, clean drinking water for the people that call this region home.


State Highlight: In New Jersey alone, the Highlands provide clean drinking water for half of the state's population from only 13 percent of the state's land area.


Recreational and cultural resources

The Northeast is home to some of the most beautiful and iconic places on earth. One in nine Americans lives within a two-hour drive of the outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities provided by the Highlands. The Highlands Conservation Act aims to protect these places and preserve access to important recreational and cultural resources in the region. Many lands acquired under the Highlands Conservation Act are open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other forms of recreation.


State Highlight: The New York and New Jersey portions of the Highlands contain more than 311,000 acres of public park lands with more than 14 million visitor days per year.



Forests provide crucial habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife, fish, and plants that live in the Highlands region. The large swaths of undisturbed forest land support both common and at-risk species while preserving clean water and air for the people who depend on these resources.

Not only are forests vitally important ecologically, they also produce important economic resources like timber.


State Highlight: The Pennsylvania Highlands contains almost 100,000 acres of state forest and more than 30,000 acres of land in 12 state parks, as well as more than 800,000 acres of natural, undisturbed forest and open space, including habitat for hundreds of threatened and endangered species.




The Highlands region is particularly important for wildlife. The region supports a wide variety of species such as breeding and migratory birds, resident amphibians and reptiles, and rare plant communities.

Whether these species just migrate through or live there all year round, the Highlands region provides them with crucial forest and wetland shelter, clean flowing water, and abundant food.

Some of these species include:


Fun fact: One quarter of the Nation's neotropical bird species are found in the Highlands region. Neotropical birds spend part of the year in Central and South American and part of the year in North America.



Farming and agricultural land are an important part of the culture and heritage of the Highlands region. Agriculture provides food, open space, and economic benefits for people living in the Highlands region and beyond.