New Jersey has long been known as the Garden State. Now, it’s taking further steps to live up to its nickname.
Recognizing the opportunity created by its miles upon miles of highways, New Jersey has passed a law that landscaping projects alongside highways must use only plants native to the region. The law, which was passed last spring, went into effect in the fall. It applies to new roadway projects; it doesn’t require immediate re-planting along existing highways.
The law was drafted by Republicans in the state senate and assembly. It proved wildly popular among lawmakers from both parties: of 106 senators and assemblypersons who voted on it, only two were opposed.
There are lots of reasons in favor of planting natives, but the bill’s proponents focused on just a few of them. First, following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012, many New Jerseyans realized that plants native to the mid-Atlantic coast were better at withstanding these kinds of storms than exotic plants from around the world. As they ride out bad weather, these hardy plants go right on preventing flooding and erosion – services that non-natives stop providing when hurricanes wipe them out.
Native plants are also better at sustaining native animals. The new roadside plantings will serve as vital corridors for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife moving through the state.
Finally, the lawmakers noticed that natives are cheaper. Why? Because natives, once established, happily take care of themselves, while non-natives need constant expensive maintenance and often die anyway, leaving nothing to show for the investment.
The New Jersey lawmakers hope that more people will take up gardening with native plants. In the next post, That Blog will look at different ways native plants can be used.