First-in-Nation Native Plant Bill Becomes Law in New Jersey

A Victory for Barnegat Bay and Other State Waterways
May 10, 2017
From the book All Things LBI, Down The Shore Publishing

A bill requiring three major statewide transportation agencies to use solely native plants when landscaping or reforesting was signed into law by Gov. Christie on May 1 – “a first-in-the-nation victory for Barnegat Bay and water bodies throughout New Jersey,” nonprofit organization Save Barnegat Bay stated.

“During the rebuilding of State Highway 35 on the barrier island following Superstorm Sandy, we worked on this bill to benefit the state both economically and ecologically,” said Sen. James Holzapfel, who put forth the measure with Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin (all R-10th). “We worked alongside Save Barnegat Bay to craft this important piece of legislation in an effort to restore the bay and prevent pollutants from entering local waterways.”

“We are very grateful to the legislators who helped achieve this victory for water quality,” said Britta Wenzel, executive director for Save Barnegat Bay. “This initiative will benefit clean water and wildlife throughout the state of New Jersey.”

The bill mandates that the Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority plant vegetation indigenous to the state, and that will thrive according to the Plant Hardiness Zone Map established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, when planting for purposes of landscaping, land management, reforestation or habitat reforestation.

In total, Save Barnegat Bay pointed out, these agencies maintain more than 3,000 miles of roads.

“Native plants that are adapted to local conditions are more likely to survive, preventing the need for replanting and saving taxpayers from an unnecessary expense,” said Wolfe. “Choosing plants that are indigenous to the area also provides vital habitats for birds and other wildlife, while limiting the growth of potentially invasive species.”

“Because they require no fertilizer,” Save Barnegat Bay added, "they are not sources of the polluting excess nutrients that stormwater and groundwater carry to nearby rivers, lakes and bays.

“Nutrient pollution from excess nitrogen and phosphorus – two principal ingredients in plant fertilizer – are by far the largest ecological problem for the preponderance of water bodies nationally, including Barnegat Bay.”

As McGuckin remarked, “Using native vegetation is a better choice for the environment and for taxpayers. Native plants allow developed landscapes to coexist with nature, rather than compete with it.” —J.K.-H.

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