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Governor slammed for halting crucial wildlife protections with last-minute veto: 'We really do need to regulate'

The veto hasn't deterred advocates of the proposal.

The veto hasn't deterred advocates of the proposal.

Photo Credit: iStock

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey vetoed a bill in January that would have established a task force to neutralize invasive and harmful plants in the state. 

What happened?

The New Jersey Monitor reported the bill would have also "prohibited the sale, distribution, import, export, or propagation of certain invasive species without a permit from the Department of Agriculture." 

Murphy described the legislation as "laudable" in a written statement but cited the state's Department of Environmental Protection's "existing authority … in this space" in his decision to exercise an absolute veto.

"Successfully controlling and limiting the spread of invasive species in New Jersey necessitates careful consideration of the framework already established under DEP around potentially dangerous species, which includes non-native and environmentally harmful species," he stated. "Additional discussion with the relevant agencies is needed to limit duplicative and unproductive efforts to address invasive species across the State." 

Sen. Bob Smith, one of the bill's primary sponsors, wanted to include animals as part of the deal but was shut down by the DEP. 

"The DEP got it way wrong," he said. "... We thought we had made all the necessary concessions to have a good starting program. Guess not." 

Why is the veto concerning?

According to the New Jersey Forest Task Force, the Garden State is one of just five states in the United States that doesn't have statewide regulations or strategies to control or eradicate invasive species, which have led to $1.3 trillion in damages around the world over the last 40 years.

"New Jersey's ecosystems are continuously threatened by harmful invasive species. Invasives negatively impact our crops and our forests' ability to regrow," said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter. 

Invasive species also don't have the mutualistic relationship that native plants share with local wildlife, upsetting the balance of the ecosystem and harming the well-being of vital creatures such as pollinators.

Additionally, Murphy's ruling largely mimics what happened in Virginia after Gov. Glenn Youngkin dismissed a bill that would have banned the sale of the invasive English ivy.

What's being done about invasive species?

The veto hasn't deterred advocates of the proposal, as Smith said he would reintroduce it during the legislative session to "start the process again."

"And hopefully, there'll be, I guess, better communication, because we really do need to regulate invasive species in the state," he added.

Mike Van Clef, the stewardship director of the nonprofit Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and the head of the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team, stated that he and other environmentalists would continue to "work toward successful passage of legislation that is acceptable to the Governor."

Meanwhile, Murphy wrote that he looked forward "to working with the Legislature on building upon this legislation to advance a plan that will best mitigate the threats posed by invasive species."

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