McGreevey signs Highlands Preservation Bill; some environmentalists boycott

Governor McGreevey (D-NJ) signed the Highlands Preservation Bill at the Wanaque Dam Tuesday. However, some environmentalists were not present at the signing.

Under the new law, large-scale development is prohibited in core watershed lands. The Highlands stretch from Ringwood to Phillipsburg and include parts of Bergen, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren Counties. The 800,000-acre region provides drinking water for more than 4 million people.

Environmentalists boycotting the signing believe the Highlands bill is undermined by the Fast Track bill. The Fast Track bill was also recently signed by McGreevey to speed up approvals for development projects. Some environmentalists say while some areas of the Highlands will be preserved under the new law, other areas will be sacrificed because of the Fast Track bill.

Activists say the Fast Track bill essentially eliminates the positive impact of the Highlands bill. However, the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner says the Fast Track law streamlines the permit process without sacrificing environmental standards.

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