Ocean County Student-Led Bills Would Help Environment

Katie Culbert and Assemblyman Alex Sauickie show off the bill that promotes the benefits of native planting. (Photo courtesy Kaitlyn Culbert)

  OCEAN COUNTY – It’s well known that native plants grow better around your home, and they also need less fertilizer and insecticide. So, why doesn’t the government use them?

  That’s the simple question but it took a fresh mind to answer it. Toms River High School North student Kaitlyn Culbert is looking for a change in planting on state-owned properties.

  She brought the idea to Assemblyman Alex Sauickie (R-12), who later introduced bill A-1253. It would require that the Department of Environmental Protection use native plants in landscaping, land management, reforestation efforts, and habitat restoration. It also appropriates $250,000 toward grants to encourage local municipalities to use native plants.

  Another bill, A-1252, would appropriate $250,000 for Deer-Resistant Native Species Propagation at the Agricultural Experiment Station.

  They both have Senate counterparts

  “New Jersey has more than 2,100 native plants species that are well-adapted to NJ soils, temperatures, precipitation levels, and other environmental conditions; thereby, making these plants the best option for conserving and protecting the State’s environment,” Culbert said. “Unfortunately, 812 native plants in New Jersey are listed as endangered or species of concern, and 39 percent of native plants in New Jersey are considered rare with 42 species that are considered globally rare.

Student Kaitlyn Culbert planted native pollinators at Jake’s Branch county park in Beachwood. (Photo courtesy Kaitlyn Culbert)

  “New Jersey’s native plant species provide food, such as nectar, pollen, seeds, foliage, and habitats, including essential shelter and nesting sites for various types of wildlife in the state. With their extensive root systems to control erosion, native plants moderate floods and filter water to improve water quality. 

  “It is necessary for our state to encourage the increased cultivation of native plants and to improve public awareness of their importance and benefits,” she said.

  Culbert speaks from experience. She is the National 4-H Pollinator Week Ambassador, a many-time science fair champion, governor’s award winner, the NJ 4-H Pollinator Habitat Ambassador and, of course, the New Jersey Honey Queen.

  Assemblyman Alex Sauickie suggested that she begin sending support letters as soon as possible as he is planning for the bills to go up to Committee this spring.

  She encouraged readers to reach out to their representative and ask them to support bills A-1252 and 1253. Their email addresses can be found here: njleg.state.nj.us/legislative-roster.