Address to Highlands Council on behalf of the New Jersey Builders Association (NJBA):
“The Highlands Region is not a remote inaccessible area, but home to over 800,000 people. The Highlands is an integral part of New Jersey with major interstate highways, railroad connections, employment centers and more than 300,000 homes. It is essential that we concurrently protect the Highland’s natural resources and provide future areas for economic growth and needed housing.” ~Matthew Sprung
New Jersey’s Highlands cover an area of 60 miles, stretching from Phillipsburg at its southwestern edge northeast to Oakland, NJ. The region involves seven New Jersey counties, including Bergen, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren.
How are The Highlands important to New Jersey?
New Jerseyans have a long history of endorsing open space and conservation efforts and the Highlands is home to the greatest diversity of natural resources in the state. Yet the wide swath of New Jersey the Highlands covers is also essential to the state’s overall economic well being and the health of the 88 municipalities within the Highlands Region.
Striking a balance between conservation efforts and development has long been the challenge for planners, developers and conservationists alike.
Matt Sprung was extensively involved in the debate which lead to the creation of the New Jersey Highlands Commission. He served as Chairman of the NJ Builders Association Highlands Committee, a working member of two congressional work groups on the Highlands and Vice Chairman of the Morris County Planning Board. Matt knows from experience that areas of the Highlands region are highly diverse and not all created the same.
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- 860,000 acres: The number of acres of forest, farms, recreation, wildlife and historic treasures in the Highlands Region.
- 800,000 people: The population found within the boundaries of the NJ Highlands.
- 770 million gallons: The daily quantity of potable water supplied by the New Jersey Highlands, making it a crucial source of water for more than half of the state’s population (most of whom live outside the Highlands Region).
- Just 8 percent: The segment of the Highlands Region earmarked for intensive development.
- Over 80 percent: The percentage of the of the Highlands Region classified as environmentally sensitive.
- 30 percent: The portion of the Highlands Region designated as Open Space as a result of conservation efforts. Quite a feat, given that New Jersey is America’s most densely populated state.
- Over 50 percent: The amount of the Highlands that is forested. Forests provide habitat for NJ’s exceptionally diverse wildlife, capture rainfall and protect water quality by filtering nutrients and reducing run-off.
- Nearly 13 percent: The area of the Highlands comprised of farmland. Agriculture provides jobs and contributes to local economies. Farms also enhance the scenic beauty and the state’s tourism industry.
- The first established historic park in the National Park System: the distinction owned by the Morristown National Historic Park- site of General George Washington’s headquarters and where Washington’s army camped during a brutal winter.
- Nearly 150: The number of threatened and endangered plant and animal species. In addition, more than 200 species of birds are indigenous to the exceptionally diverse New Jersey Highlands.
- The most recreational visitors each year: The Highlands attract more tourists than Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon National parks combined. The Highlands give millions an easy escape to natural beauty; making the Highlands an integral component of New Jersey’s eco-tourism economy.
“I know that each parcel of land is a precious, distinct, and irreplaceable portion of this distinct and irreplaceable planet. I will treat it with the respect that it deserves, recognizing that I will be judged by the integrity and permanence of my developments, which will survive my lifetime. . . I will be ever vigilant toward preserving the quality of the larger environment – the air, the water and the land. . . Recognizing that change is inevitable, I will pursue excellence with an open mind. . .” The Urban Land Institute Code of Ethics