(CAPE MAY POINT) — Assembly Democrats Timothy J. Eustace, D.C. (D-Bergen), L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Robert Andrzejczak (D-Cape May) and Daniel R. Benson (D-Mercer) issued a multimedia package Monday on their recent field visit to a monarch butterfly conservation and tracking program in Cape May Point.
New Jersey is considered a monarch butterfly migration waystation: The insects make their final stop here to bulk up before migrating to Mexico for the winter. The monarch migration is a large part of fall agro-tourism in the state, with thousands of individuals coming to New Jersey each year to witness the tens of thousands of butterflies before their annual migration south. However, in recent years, the butterfly population has shrunk significantly, due to a reduction in their natural habitat: milkweed.
The multimedia package consists of commentary from the members; Bill Schuhl, a local resident who has planted a butterfly garden on his property; and Kelly Mooij, New Jersey Audubon’s vice president for government relations, and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments is appended below:
Assemblyman Timothy J. Eustace, D.C. (D-Bergen):
“People have come to Cape May, here where we are today, for years to watch the monarchs head off to Mexico for their wintering. What has happened in the last couple of years is, we’ve had a 50 percent decrease in the population, and it has to do with them having no food to eat. It’s the simple planting of the milkweed that will restore some of the population.
“There are several reasons why it’s important to even pay attention to this. The most important is conservation issues that we have in our state and this country, by and large. Some of the bills assist in flood prevention. Some of the bills assist in making sure we have plant health. Some of the bills make sure that we assist in insect health. All of which makes for a better environment.
“The other thing that’s important in New Jersey is tourism. Eco-tourism is one of the biggest fields in making an economy work.”
Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Chair:
“Monarch butterflies play an important role in our community. They all feed on nectar, once they become a full-fledged butterfly. They go from flower to flower to flower and although they’re not directly involved in pollination, as bees may be, they are also transferring different types of pollen to other plants that may help with the pollination.
“And we need to make sure that they continue to exist, because at some point, if they’re not protected, then we’re going to lose our butterflies.”
Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak (D-Cape May), Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chair:
“It’s really important for us to get out and to really understand what the problems are.
“As a legislator, being out in the community and actually interacting with the constituents and learning about the issues, especially in this area that we are in today, Cape May Point, we have a big agro-tourism area.
“So, tens of thousands of people visit this area every year and it is not only for bird watching but also the monarch butterflies. And it’s important for us to act on it now, that way there’s generations down the road that are able to come back here and see them first hand.”
Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Mercer), Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Member:
“Definitely, anytime you’re dealing with something that’s very ‘sciency,’ there’s no better way to really engage and really to understand an issue [than] by doing it hands on. You know, we had a chance to actually hold on to the monarch butterflies, you know, tag them, release them, and then come out into folks’ backyards and see how individual efforts can really make a communal impact.”
Bill Schuhl, Cape May Point resident and private butterfly garden owner:
“Well, we built a monarch butterfly garden because we knew that this was a monarch hotspot. Monarchs migrate through here.
“At one point we weren’t sure that they were going all the way to Mexico, which is why they started the tagging program, and the garden just grew from there.”
Kelly Mooij, Vice President for Government Relations, New Jersey Audubon:
“We are thrilled to have Assembly members here to see the great and important work that they can do through their legislative initiatives at the State House, like preserving habitat, protecting habitat and also food sources for a variety of different pollinators, threatened and endangered species and birds alike, are incredibly important and things that only are legislature can do.”
“So, it’s a full circle idea that we try and restore the milkweed first and encourage these insects and others to cross pollinate.”