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Burzichelli Bill to Help Protect New Jersey’s Natural Habitats Gains Assembly OK

Legislation Assemblyman John Burzichelli sponsored to help restore habitat and wildlife populations native to New Jersey was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.

The bill embraces the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife Program. The program helps people restore habitat and wildlife populations to cities, towns and neighborhoods by educating and empowering people to turn their yards and gardens into thriving habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

“Maintaining a balance between development and preservation of natural resources is especially important in a state as densely populated as ours,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This bill allows interested individuals to create habitats on their private properties for animal species native to New Jersey without fear of legal repercussions.”

The bill (A-1069) would direct the commissioner of the Department Environmental Protection to establish a private wildlife habitat certification program. In establishing the program, the commissioner would be authorized to consider any standards used by recognized conservation organizations for purposes of certifying properties as suitable wildlife habitat. A person who registers a property that has been certified under the program, would be entitled to an affirmative defense against any liability for a violation of a municipal ordinance under which the “certified private wildlife habitat,” or any component thereof, is deemed, or would be deemed, a nuisance or an otherwise unlawful condition.

The certifying entities identified in the regulations could include nonprofit conservation organizations, for-profit landscaping companies or any other private entities.

The bill would require that the regulations promote the use of native plants.

The measure, which received unanimous Assembly approval, now awaits further Senate consideration.