The NJ Highlands is a region of special importance to people and nature as it provides drinking water to over 300 municipalities. Of those, 88 municipalities in 7 counties are located within the region that was designated in 2004 as the NJ Highlands. While the regional master plan of the Highlands Council states “no net loss of habitat,” the plan also encourages a balanced approach that supports economic development, recreation, agriculture, and quality of life.
Sustainable Economies Consulting has partnered with RES in a project funded by the NJ Highlands Council to review and field test an ecosystem-based valuation methodology and associated guidance materials. Strategies impacting land use are of particular importance since these strategies have impacts on people and on nature.
Specifically, the Highlands Council has developed new guidance to assess habitat quality, in cases where habitat mitigation may be needed due to development of that land. We are evaluating the economic feasibility of the guidance through a variety of angles. Our approach is research and fact based, and also brings in the perspectives of a range of experts and stakeholders. In addition, we apply an ecosystem services framework to assess benefits to people provided by land, such as recreation, stormwater infiltration, or scenic views.