New Jersey has over 2,100 species of native plants. This impressive diversity equates to approximately 13% of the floral diversity in the United States in just 0.25% of the landmass. New Jersey’s plant diversity is largely attributed to the distinct ecological regions found here and that New Jersey is a meeting ground for both northern and southern species that are at the edge of their range.
A staggering 39% of native plants in New Jersey are considered rare and the overall trend is negative. Overall, from 2006 to 2016 the number of listed state endangered plants increased by 26 and the number of extirpated, or locally extinct, went up by 10 species. Beyond rarity at the state level, New Jersey is home to 42 species that are considered globally rare.
Unlike animals, rare plants in the state of New Jersey do not have any statewide protections and do not have a recognized threatened category.
Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Kevin Rooney have co-sponsored bill A985, the New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Plant Protection Act.
This legislation would protect known populations of rare plants from intentional damage and sale or transport with some specific exceptions. The bill also establishes a threatened category for plants. It directs the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish an “Endangered and Threatened Plant Species Advisory Committee”. This committee would be tasked with developing conservation plans for priority rare species, which will ensure that the DEP is not only protecting the rare plants we know of but actively working to increase the number of individuals with the ultimate goal of delisting species if appropriate.
This bill was first introduced in 2019 and needs support from the public to move through the state legislature. This bill has recently been referred to the Assembly Agriculture Committee. When the COVID-19 crisis passes we will reach out to you about taking action to see this bill pass the Assembly and the Senate.
We need to move away from documenting the decline of our New Jersey native plants and being implementing the measures that will protect our remaining wild plant populations. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to protect what we have left.
The following organizations signed a letter supporting the passage of legislation protecting threatened and endangered plants in New Jersey:
American Littoral Society
Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
D&R Greenway Land Trust
Environment New Jersey
Forked River Mountain Coalition
Friends for the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh
Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space
Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association
Haddon Township Environmental Commission
Jakes Branch County Park, Ocean County Dept. of Parks and Recreation
Kingston Greenways Association
Master Gardeners of Burlington County
Monroe Township Environmental Commission
Musconetcong Mountain Conservancy
Musconetcong Watershed Association
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Sierra Club
Rutgers University Ecology & Evolution Graduate Student Association
Saddler’s Woods Conservation Association
South Jersey Land and Water Trust
The Nature Conservancy
Union Forge Heritage Association
Washington Crossing Audubon Society
Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge