What We Do

Grant Process

When Congress appropriates funding under the Highlands Conservation Act (HCA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages a process to award grant money to state agencies for projects within the Highlands region. The states in partnership with local governments, conservation organizations, and private landowners propose land conservation projects that have met grant criteria and eligibility requirements.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service then consults with the U.S. Forest Service to determine the eligibility of the proposals, and ranks proposals for the portion of the funding that is distributed competitively. The grants awarded are administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

The yearly HCA funding appropriation is divided into two separate categories – Base and Competitive. Any appropriation up to $2 million is designated as Base funding. The $2 million minimum of base funding takes into consideration the importance of consistency in funding for states to stay active in land acquisition through the HCA, and ensures efficient program administration. All appropriated funding over $2 million is divided evenly among Base and Competitive categories (i.e., $0.50 of every dollar appropriated over $2 million will go to base funding and the other $0.50 will go to competitive).

Base funding: This funding is distributed evenly among the states that submit eligible proposals. States request funding by submitting a proposal narrative and list of priority projects in response to a Notice of Funding Opportunity. A panel of experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service reviews proposals for eligibility.

Competitive funding: Competitive funding is distributed through ranking of individual projects. States request funding through a separate Notice of Funding Opportunity. Ranking criteria are described in the Notice of Funding Opportunity and they reflect the conservation goals of the HCA. A panel of experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service reviews and ranks proposals.

Project Eligibility

Land conservation proposals must meet the following eligibility requirements:

The project must identify the non-federal entity that will own, hold, or manage the land or interest in land acquired using Highlands Conservation Act funding. Federal entities are ineligible to receive funding. A non-federal entity is any state agency in the Highlands region defined under the Act as Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania that has authority to own and manage land for conservation purposes, including the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

The federal share of the cost shall not exceed 50-percent of the total cost of the land conservation project. The source of funds for the non-federal share must be identified.

The project must describe the management objectives for the land that will ensure permanent protection and use of the land for the purpose for which the assistance will be provided.

The project must be in an area identified as having high conservation value as determined in one of the scientific studies supporting the Act.

Management and Conservation

Enjoy opportunities for fishing, dog walking, hiking and more in the Highlands.

As of 2024, more than $48 million in federal funds, matched by $74 million in non-federal funds, have been spent to permanently protect over 16,226 acres since the passage of the Highlands Conservation Act in 2004.

Thanks to strong conservation partnerships and strong conservation efforts, the Highlands Conservation Act grant program continues to support important ecological and cultural resources including productive agriculture and forests, clean drinking water, healthy wildlife populations, and exceptional recreational opportunities for the benefit of the wildlife and people who call this beautiful region home. 

Funding Awards by State and Year

Fiscal YearConnecticutNew JerseyNew YorkPennsylvaniaTotal
2020$1,460,000(did not apply)$4,460,000$1,460,000$7,380,000
2021$1,460,000(did not apply)$1,460,000$1,460,000$4,380,000
2022$1,460,000(did not apply)$1,460,000$17,120,240$20,040,240

Our Projects and Research

Facts for each state in the Highlands Region

Distinguished by scenic Appalachian ridges, hills, and plateaus, the Highlands Region spans 3.4 million acres across Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

In 2004, the Highlands Conservation Act was signed into law to protect threatened and endangered species, ensure clean drinking water, create outdoor recreational areas, and sustain working forests and farms in the Highlands Region. Since then, the unique public and private partnership behind the Highlands Conservation Act Program, consisting of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the four Highlands States, the non-profit land conservation community, and the U.S. Forest Service, has conserved 16,226 acres.

View of a wetland area with rocks and wildflowers along the edge of a pond where grass and lily pads grow, with a forest along the other side of the pond.


The Connecticut Highlands region encompasses Appalachian hills and valleys extending throughout Litchfield county and beyond. Projects in the state are conserving important wildlife habitat, creating new outdoor recreational areas and protecting drinking water supplies for...

Water rushes over a small waterfall on a rocky riverbed through a forest of laurel shrubs and mixed hardwood trees.


The New Jersey Highlands region encompasses Appalachian hills and valleys extending from Passaic county and the lower half of Sussex county across northern New Jersey through Warren and Hunterdon counties. Projects in the state are conserving important wildlife habitat,...

A bumblebee pollinates a golden rod flower.


The New York Highlands region encompasses Appalachian hills and valleys extending from Pawling and Southeast county at the Connecticut border, following the Hudson Highland mountains, across the Hudson River, and continues on to Warwick and Ramapo counties at the New Jersey...

A bobolink bird sits in a shrub, its beak is open as it sings.

The Pennsylvania Highlands region encompasses Appalachian hills and valleys extending from the Allentown area in the northeast down to Harrisburg and the Susquehanna River in the southeast. Projects in the state are conserving important wildlife habitat, creating new outdoor recreational...

Our Laws and Regulations

Highlands Conservation Act

The Highlands Conservation Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to provide financial assistance to the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania (Highland States) to preserve and protect high priority conservation land in the Highlands region, an area depicted on a National Forest Service map entitled "The Highlands Region" dated June 2004.


P.L. 108-421

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