(TRENTON) – The endangered bog turtle just inched closer to becoming New Jersey’s State Reptile.
Legislation (A-1530) sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker to officially designate the bog turtle as the official State Reptile of New Jersey was advanced by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on Thursday.
“The bog turtle is a unique creature, and important to New Jersey’s ecosystem,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “These turtles used to be prevalent. Unfortunately, because of destruction of their habitat, they are now critically endangered. There’s certainly much more we need to do to protect them and preserve their habitat, and we will. This bill is an important way to raise awareness about the species and its plight, and a commitment by our state to protect it.”
Appearing at the committee hearing in support of Zwicker’s bill were students from two Princeton elementary schools, Riverside and Community Park, and their teachers. It was their research about the bog turtle, and advocacy for designating it the State Reptile, that inspired Zwicker to write the legislation.
“We received dozens of letters written by these students, each one original and compelling,” Zwicker recalled. “Even the youngest children’s letters were well-supported, explaining the need for the bog turtle’s protection. I was persuaded and very moved.”
One of the teachers who attended the hearing with the students, Mark Eastburn, explained, “This project has enabled children to find their voice for a cause that they passionately support. The letters that they sent to Assemblyman Zwicker must’ve really had an impact, because he has given such an enthusiastic response. Children were thrilled to meet him during a school visit last October, and we are so happy that students can see politicians come together and cooperate in supporting this bipartisan bill.”
“Seeing these kids put their learning about science and the environment into this kind of political engagement makes this especially gratifying,” said Zwicker. “This process has shown children that they too can change their world for the better.”