In 2002 a U.S. Forest Service study of the New York-New Jersey Highlands reported in no uncertain terms that accelerating development in this northeastern “green belt” would significantly compromise the Highlands water supply, a source of naturally clean water for millions of people in cities and suburbs along the coast. The Highlands Rediscovered explores what makes this region special by focusing on the natural history of the Highlands, as seen through the eyes of professionals who study and work there. Shot in High Definition video with an emphasis on recording the Highlands’ physical attributes, this program is a visually captivating exploration of an under-appreciated wilderness surrounded by – and supplying water to – one of the most densely-populated areas in the nation.

Watch Video Clips for the show

Promotional Announcement 1
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Not sure where New Jersey’s Highlands are? You’re not alone …
True or false: for the first time ever, human impact is threatening the health of the Highlands wilderness. Learn more…

Experts Profiles

The Highlands Rediscovered features several professionals who have worked in the Highlands and studied its natural resources, especially related to water and forest issues. Many of these experts live or have lived in the Highlands too.


Wilma Frey is the Highlands Project Manager for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, as well as the Highlands Coalition Coordinator and Project Director. Wilma has staffed the New Jersey Conservation Foundation's Highlands policy program since 1990. She provides the Highlands Coalition, Highlands groups, and environmental advocates with expertise on environmental policy and land use planning, government relations, and community organizing. Wilma holds Master's degrees in Landscape Architecture and Public Administration, both from Harvard University.


Dr. Alexander Gates is Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University - Newark. He is a Structural-Tectonic Geologist with expertise in environmental applications such as radon and fracture systems. He began research in the Highlands region as a geologist for the New York State Geological Survey in 1990 and has since studied the bedrock and environmental problems in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-New York Highlands, and has participated in significant public outreach. His work has been featured in several front page articles in the New York Times, as well as being the focus of stories in other newspapers, magazines, and radio shows.


Heather Gracie has been a Consulting Forester for twenty years. She currently assists over 700 properties with the management of their forested properties for a variety of uses, including wildlife, recreation, watershed protection and forest products. Approximately two-thirds of these properties lie within the Highlands region. Gracie is active with many of forestry organizations, including the Society of American Foresters, the New Jersey Tree Farm Association, the New Jersey Forestry Association, and the Natural Science Committee for the Upper Raritan Watershed Association. She is a graduate of Cook College, Rutgers University, with a BS in Natural Resource Management.


Richard (Rick) G. Lathrop Jr. is the Director of the Walton Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis, and an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources, at Cook College, Rutgers University. Lathrop holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Monitoring (1988) & Ms. Forestry (1986) from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a B.A. Biology (1981) from Dartmouth College. His research program attempts to integrate insights of landscape ecology and geography with the application of geo-spatial technology to improve the understanding of the structure and function of coupled human-environmental systems. That understanding is then translated into appropriate techniques to improve ‘on-the-ground’ natural resource management and land use planning. Lathrop coordinated the integral land resources component of the 2002 U.S. Forest Service Highlands Regional Study Update.


Eric Stiles is a resident of the Highlands and directs New Jersey Audubon Society’s (NJAS) conservation department. He worked as a landscape ecologist and endangered species biologist for nearly a decade before joining NJAS in 2002. Completing his Ph.D. in Ecology, Eric has a strong science background, which serves as the bed-rock for his advocacy campaigns. New Jersey Audubon Society co-founded the Highlands Coalition in 1988, and its 21,000 members are dedicated to conserving, interpreting and researching the natural wonders of this region.


Edmund W. Stiles, Ph.D. is a professor of biology at Rutgers University and is also director of Hutcheson Memorial Forest Center. He works in the area of plant-animal interactions with emphasis on evolutionary questions involving seed-dispersal systems. Stiles is also involved in conservation of biodiversity and open space preservation. He is chairman of the Mercer County Open Space Preservation Board, president of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, president of the Land Use Municipal Resource Center, vice-chairman of the Delaware & Raritan Greenway, a former chairman of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, and a former trustee of the New Jersey Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.


Dan Van Abs has over thirty years of volunteer and professional experience in the fields of water resources management and environmental protection. He has held staff and management positions with the Passaic River Coalition, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Water Supply Authority, and has been involved with Highlands issues in all three organizations. He is a professional planner and holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science.

Funding Acknowledgement

The Highlands Rediscovered was made possible with funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Behind the scenes

  Writer / Producer: Bob Szuter
Narrator: Laura Novia
Original Music: Robert Sands
Associate Producer: Dari Mandell
Camera / Audio: Mike Budd, Paul Horvath, Scott Neall, Jeff Reisly
Web Photography: George M. Aronson ( & Bob Szuter
Web Design & Development: Juan Carlos Rojas


  The Highlands Rediscovered Pressroom
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