WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Wednesday announced that Connecticut will receive $1.46 million in federal funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand Connecticut’s existing Highlands area. This funding was made possible by Murphy’s Highlands Conservation Reauthorization Act, which was included in the fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill to extend protections for the next five years and provide $10 million to conserve 3.5 million acres of land in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Blumenthal also co-sponsored the legislation.

“The Highlands region is home to hundreds of wildlife species and provides clean water to thousands of people in our state. I’ve spent years working to reauthorize the legislation that gives Connecticut access to federal funds for conservation, and last year, we got it done. This $1.46 million will bring a big boost to the local economy and ensure more of this special area is protected for future generations,” said Murphy.

“The Highland Region is an incredibly beautiful and vital natural treasure. This $1.46 million investment through the Highlands Conservation Act will preserve valuable open space, provide clean drinking water, and maintain recreational trails for all to enjoy. Protecting these lands is critical to Connecticut’s future and I am deeply proud to have fought for this robust funding,” said Blumenthal.

“The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is grateful for the continued partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Highlands Conservation Act Grant program, and for the efforts of our Congressional delegation in helping to secure this latest funding for our state,” Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “This partnership has allowed DEEP to leverage local, State and Federal funding to increase the pace of land conservation in the Highlands region of Connecticut. This important program has already protected 627 acres of important wildlife habitat in Goshen, creating a corridor of roughly 3,600 acres of protected habitat critical for declining species such as New England Cottontail and bobolinks or for more common species such as wild turkeys, moose, and even porcupines. The projects planned for this round of funding will protect important wetlands and sensitive native wildlife habitats while opening additional acreage for passive recreational activities including hiking, bird watching and snowshoeing. DEEP is excited to move forward with these important conservation projects that will move Connecticut one step closer to its goal of protecting 21% of its land as open space.”

"The Highlands Conservation Act has been a game changer for land protection in Northwest Connecticut, where we leverage these vital federal funds with state, municipal and private contributions.  It has saved more than 5,335 acres to date,  with much more land protection underway. We are grateful to Senators Murphy and Blumenthal and to the Connecticut House delegation for their unwavering support for the reauthorization of the HCA last year, and for this welcome appropriation that will help us protect clean water, connected forests, farmlands, wildlife corridors and recreational resources in the Highlands region of our State,” said Tim Abbott, Regional Conservation Director, Housatonic Valley Association.

“The Connecticut Land Conservation Council is grateful to Senators Blumenthal and Murphy for their leadership in ensuring the reauthorization of the Highlands Conservation Act (HCA) as part of the FY2023 omnibus bill, allowing for this $1,460,000 federal grant to our state. The public’s insatiable desire for access to nature – along with the essential role our lands and waters play in mitigating the impacts of the changing climate, halting an alarming decline in biodiversity, and keeping our air and water clean  – underscores the critical need to increase investments in the programs and projects that protect our environment, public health, and economic well-being.  The HCA is indispensable to Connecticut’s land conservation efforts – enabling land trusts to leverage state open space grant dollars, as well as municipal and private contributions, to conserve critical wildlife habitat, protect drinking water supplies, and provide access to trails and opportunities for passive recreation throughout the region,” said Amy Blaymore Paterson, Executive Director, Connecticut Land Conservation Council.

“The Highlands Conservation Act has transformed conservation practice in our region, allowing local land trusts and their municipal partners to conserve the large, impactful natural areas that bring public health and economic benefits to their communities. HCA’s investment is as essential as it is powerful, leveraging state and private funding that together are much more effective then these parts could ever be alone,” said Connie Manes, Greenprint Director, Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative.