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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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news releases

November 1, 2006


Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795



(06/65) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today announced re-adoption of rules that implement enhanced environmental standards in the designated Preservation Area of the Highlands region.

“The department remains firmly committed to the goals of the landmark Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, which not only protects exceptional forest lands, wetlands and wildlife habitats, but safeguards water supplies for more than 5 million people,’’ Commissioner Jackson said.

The rules will be published in the New Jersey Register on Dec. 4 and will become effective upon publication. The rules implement the Highlands Act, signed into law on Aug. 10, 2004.

The rules protect the Highlands’ surface waters through a 300-foot development buffer; protect ground water through septic density standards; set impervious surface restrictions; limit development on steep slopes; set protections for upland forests and historic resources; and establish protections for rare, threatened and endangered species.

The new rules clarify various aspects of interim rules adopted in May 2005. Changes include:

  • Language that clarifies implementation of the rules through the Highlands Regional Master Plan to be adopted by the Highlands Council;
  • Improved field methodologies in making determinations of an area as a forest, which is a key consideration in determining an area’s septic density;
  • Two new general permit programs that allow nonprofit groups, municipalities and others to create habitat and use certain stream bank stabilization methods to protect or improve water quality;
  • Provisions ensuring that, should the rules require landowners to offer land for conservation purposes, nonprofit groups using money from the Garden State Preservation Trust must negotiate the purchase price based on land values as they were prior to implementation of the Highlands Act.

The Highlands is a 1,250-square-mile area in the northwestern part of the state noted for its rugged hills, lush forests and scenic lakes. It 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.

Surface and ground sources in the Highlands supply water to more than 290 municipalities in 16 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

“The Highlands region is a critical source of drinking water for millions of people, providing some or all of the drinking water to approximately 64 percent of New Jersey’s residents,’’ Commissioner Jackson said.

DEP's Highlands rules apply to the Preservation Area; they do not apply to the designated Planning Area.

For more information and a full version of the rules, go to:




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Last Updated: November 3, 2006