Eustace, Pinkin & Gusciora Bills to Help Protect & Preserve the Monarch Butterfly Population Heads to Governor’s Desk

(TRENTON) – A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Nancy Pinkin and Reed Gusciora to help protect the monarch butterfly population, which stops to feed in New Jersey as it migrates south and has dwindled dramatically due to a shortage of their primary food, received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

“Every autumn, millions of monarch butterflies migrate south from Canada and the United States to Mexico, stopping in New Jersey along the way to feed and reproduce,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “However, recent reports indicate that the monarch butterfly population is at its lowest level since records began in 1993. A major cause of this decline has been the widespread loss of a plant called milkweed, which monarch butterfly larvae rely on for food. Milkweed has seen its range fall 58 percent between 1999 and 2010.”

Thus, the first bill (A-2448), sponsored by Assembly members Eustace, Pinkin and Gusciora, would establish a Milkweed for Monarchs program in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The bill would authorize groups, organizations, businesses and individuals to adopt assigned state-owned stormwater management basins for the purpose of planting milkweed.

The DEP would be responsible for, among other things, establishing criteria for the planting of milkweed in stormwater management basins on state lands and coordinating with program volunteers, public interest organizations and government officials to arrange for the adoption of stormwater management basins. Groups, organizations, businesses, and individuals who are interested in becoming program volunteers would notify the department. Upon receipt of the request, the DEP would assign the program volunteer an appropriate stormwater management basin in which to plant milkweed. The DEP would then provide the program volunteer with information and instructions on how to plant and maintain the milkweed. Adoptions would last for one year, but could be renewed on an annual basis.

“Once widespread throughout the United States, milkweed has seen its range fall 58 percent between 1999 and 2010,” Pinkin (D- Middlesex). “Planting milkweed in stormwater management basins will provide the resources necessary for monarch butterflies to produce successive generations and sustain their spectacular migration through the state. Swamp milkweed, which is native to New Jersey wetlands, has the added benefit of being water retentive, allowing it to capture rainwater and reduce flooding.”

The second bill (A-2449) would establish an Adopt a Monarch Butterfly Waystation program in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Assemblymen Eustace and Gusciora are the sponsors of this bill.

“The intent here is simple: to create and protect monarch habitations throughout the state,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “By developing more Monarch Waystations on available state-owned properties, we help to stem the decline of monarch population and preserve a wildlife species for generations to come.”

The bill would authorize groups, organizations, businesses, and individuals to “adopt” assigned portions of state-owned lands to develop and maintain monarch butterfly waystations. The DEP would be responsible for, among other things, establishing criteria for the development of waystations and coordinating with program volunteers, public interest organizations, and government officials to arrange for the adoption of state-owned lands. Groups, organizations, businesses, and individuals who are interested in becoming program volunteers would notify the department. Upon receipt of the request, the DEP would assign the program volunteer an appropriate portion of state-owned lands on which to develop a monarch butterfly waystation. The DEP would then provide the program volunteer with information and instructions on how to develop and maintain the waystation. Adoptions would last for one year, but could be renewed on an annual basis.

The bills would also require the department, in consultation with the Department of Education and citizen, educational, and environmental groups, to prepare educational materials on the decline in the monarch butterfly population and the ways in which residents can create and conserve monarch butterfly habitats, and to distribute these materials to schools and public interest organizations.

Lastly, the bills would authorize the DEP, counties, municipalities, and schools to accept donations of funds, supplies, or services for use in the “Milkweed for Monarchs” program and the “Adopt a Monarch Butterfly Waystation” program.

The bill (A-2448) was approved 71-0 by the Assembly today, and 39-1 by the Senate last year. The bill (A-2449) was approved 72-0 by the Assembly today, and 40-0 by the Senate last year.