TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez to establish a special program for the benefit of the survival of monarch butterflies cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today.
The bill, S-1986 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 throughout the state for the purpose of planting milkweed.
According to National Geographic, Monarch Butterflies feed exclusively on Milkweed. Milkweed is essential to monarchs because it is the only plant that the butterfly species lays eggs on — and which the monarch caterpillar can eat.
However, every autumn, millions of monarch butterflies migrate south from Canada and the United States to Mexico, stopping at sites along the way, like New Jersey, to feed and reproduce. Once widespread throughout the United States, milkweed has seen its range fall 58 percent between 1999 and 2010. Swamp milkweed, which is native to New Jersey wetlands, is perfectly suited to stormwater management basins because it is water retentive and, thus, can help reduce flooding.
“A major cause of decline in the monarch butterfly population is the widespread loss of a plant called milkweed, which monarch butterfly larvae rely on for food,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “We have to try to control the environment and stop these beautiful species from going away. Our job as lawmakers is to not only protect our residents, but protect our environment and our wildlife. This is a small step, which will make a world of difference.”
The DEP would be responsible for, establishing criteria for the planting of milkweed in stormwater management basins and coordinating with program volunteers, public interest organizations, and government officials to arrange for the adoption of stormwater management basins.
The bill would also require the DEP, 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.
According to a 2014 article in the Bergen Record, many residents were being asked to plant Milkweed in their yards in hopes of trying to save the Monarch Butterfly. According to the article, common milkweed, which grows in empty lots and along roads and fields often grows to three feet but can look very unhealthy, which means it often gets cut down.
S-1986 cleared the committee 4-0 and will now head to the full Senate for further consideration.