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Strategic Plan for Restoration and Protection - Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program

Additional Information About the Mid-Atlantic Highlands

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This is the actual text of the plan dated September 25, 2009.


"Protect, Restore, and Connect Forested Headwaters"

Introduction

The intent of this Strategic Plan is to set forth an approach to meet the goals and objectives of the Highlands Action Program.

Background

The Mid-Atlantic Highlands encompass 79,000 square miles in the Central Appalachians of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The region hosts some of most diverse and globally important resources on Earth. It is rich in natural and cultural heritage where the environment plays an important role in the quality of life. However, after years of resource extraction and lack of regard for natural resources, the Mid-Atlantic Highlands has become an area in need of attention. Congress recognized the uniqueness of the area and the need to perform restoration, conservation and preservation activities. To this end, Congress funded the establishment of the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Program.

The Congressional appropriations language instructed EPA to establish and implement a Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program (HAP) through interagency agreements with other federal agencies and cooperative agreements with states, local governments and non-governmental organizations. HAP was expected to use environmental indicators, strong science, and partnerships with states, non-governmental organizations, local communities and the private sector to identify the causes of those problems; develop solutions and management actions to resolve the identified problems; and develop a management plan.

Ongoing Activities (2006 - 2009)

In 2006, EPA with the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia began the Highlands Action Program. Each state designated an official state liaison for HAP, EPA assigned key staff to the HAP program, and together they became the HAP management team. The HAP management team is responsible for planning and conducting the Highlands Action Program. They have agreed upon a program charter which lays out the major long-term program goals and near-term objectives. The charter highlights the importance of the Mid-Atlantic Highlands that should remain a special place where stewardship of the environment is an important part of the community, quality of life, and economics of the region. With our Federal partners, NGOs, and private contractors, we have begun special demonstration and restoration projects, conducted pilot educational projects, and have developed a strategic approach to restoration and conservation.

HAP uses the best available science to improve the natural resources and socio-economic conditions in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands by achieving the following program goals:

HAP is using a strategic Green Infrastructure (GI) approach to address the needs in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. The GI approach is intended to identify places of ecological and cultural significance with the goal of protection and restoration. It is an inventory of areas for conservation and restoration based on their ecological, cultural, and/ or economic value and significance. This inventory is depicted spatially on a map and shows the vulnerability of areas as well as areas best suited for restoration projects. The green infrastructure plan will identify large forested areas, connectors for wildlife, working lands, and areas for potential development.

The green infrastructure approach will provide options for connecting these special places and will be provide a framework for revitalizing and connecting forested headwaters and lands through river corridors and natural stream channel design, wetlands, working lands, ridge lines, steep slopes, riparian buffers, and flood plains.

Green infrastructure planning requires sustained effort on the part of the citizens in a region to affect the way conservation and land-use planning are done. A green infrastructure plan empowers citizens and helps the region determine where to develop and where to prioritize their conservation and protection efforts. The green infrastructure approach balances conservation efforts with economic growth and allows for sustainable growth in areas such as foresting and logging.

Future Activities (2009 forward)

Statewide green infrastructure assessment and planning is near completion in Maryland and Virginia. It is underway in Pennsylvania and is expected to begin in West Virginia in the next few months.

Once the blueprint of the green infrastructure plan is completed, HAP will look for opportunities to influence decision making through mitigation and conservation planning. HAP will need public support to integrate green infrastructure into existing programs and to develop policy to adopt this approach. Through the support and interest of the public, this strategic approach will be implemented as a multi-state initiative to rank areas for restoration. This will result in improved ecosystems in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands region.

This strategic approach lends itself to economic growth and provides opportunities for new industries to take hold in the region. HAP restoration projects will gain momentum and occur on a large scale so that the restoration industry will grow across the Mid-Atlantic region. The ecological restoration industry creates as many or more jobs and is the fastest growing area of any other industrial sector. Ecological restoration also leads to eco-tourism, another growing industrial sector.

To demonstrate its value, HAP will publicize the "on the ground" success stories of its projects; show the benefit of green corridors that have been preserved, restored, and built; and show the success of working with other agencies in meeting its goals. For example:

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