New Jersey Gateway Chapter Leads with Native Plant Ordinance 

| Advocacy

The city of Jersey City, New Jersey set an example for urban sustainability this spring with an ordinance that enforces the integration of native plants into public landscaping. This initiative offers a proactive approach to enhancing biodiversity and environmental resilience across urban landscapes and serves as another blueprint for communities looking to implement similar ecological landscaping practices. 

Jersey City leads with native plant ordinance

With the help of co-author Wild Ones New Jersey Gateway Chapter, Jersey City has passed an ordinance that mandates the prioritization of native plants in municipal landscaping. Recognizing the benefits native species offer, the city aims to integrate these plants into public spaces, thereby supporting local ecosystems and addressing environmental challenges. This move came on the heels of NJ Governor Phil Murphy vetoing a bill that would have created a task force to fight invasive plant species this past January. 

Key highlights of the Jersey City ordinance: 

  • Promotion of Native Plants: The ordinance mandates that a significant portion of new plantings on municipal properties must be native species. This shift towards native vegetation aims to restore local biodiversity, conserve water, and reduce maintenance needs compared to non-native counterparts. 
  • Support for Pollinators and Wildlife: By planting native species, Jersey City hopes to create a thriving environment for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, along with other wildlife. These efforts are crucial for maintaining healthy ecosystems and ensuring the survival of various species. 
  • Educational Initiatives: The ordinance also includes provisions for community education on the importance of native plants. This involves creating resources and collaborating with local organizations to spread awareness about the benefits of native flora. 
  • Restrictions on Harmful Practices: To protect these beneficial plantings, the ordinance restricts the use of neonicotinoids—harmful pesticides known to negatively affect pollinators. Additionally, the city commits to avoiding the planting of pesticide-treated plants near native vegetation. 
  • Encouragement of Private Participation: Residents and businesses are encouraged to adopt similar practices by maintaining managed natural landscapes that support local ecosystems. 

Wild Ones New Jersey Gateway Chapter co-authors ordinance

In an effort that highlights Wild Ones mission of connecting people with native plants through education, advocacy, and collaborative action, the Wild Ones New Jersey Gateway Chapter teamed up with the NJ Native Plant Society Hudson Chapter to co-author this native plant ordinance. This ordinance, which was passed unanimously on April 10, 2024, exemplifies a shared vision for a greener future and garnered strong support from the Jersey City Environmental Commission. The Jersey City Environmental Commission also applied for and was approved for a $2,500 grant from the (ANJEC) Association of NJ Environmental Commissions to plant a native pollinator habitat in one of Jersey City parks. As part of this, Wild Ones New Jersey Gateway and the Native Plant Society of NJ were invited to serve as consultants for this project, bringing their expertise in native plant selection and community education to the forefront of this project. This collaboration showcases the impactful partnership between grassroots advocacy and municipal governance.

Advocacy is part of our grassroots: 

In 2023, fifteen Wild Ones chapters reported advocacy activities influencing policy at state and local levels. For example, The St. Croix Oak Savanna Chapter board members participate in the Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s Pollinator Cluster, collaborating with other mission-aligned organizations to advocate for pollinators and protect habitat across the state. Chapters and members in New York advocated in support of the long-debated Birds and Bees Protection Act. Finally signed into law on December 22, 2023, the legislation requires scientific review of active ingredients in pesticides and restricts the residential use of neonicotinoids on ornamental plants and turf.

At the local level, chapter advocacy led by members of the Door Peninsula, Keweenaw, West Cook, and Wolf River chapters influenced weed and native planting ordinances and practices in their communities last year. With the help of the New Jersey Gateway Chapter, Jersey City joined other municipalities to codify the planting of native plants. These cities are just a few that set a precedent for urban areas across the nation to follow:

Somerville, Massachusetts: Somerville passed a Native Planting Ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind to establish minimum requirements for the planting of native plants and trees in city-owned parks, open spaces, and streets. This ordinance is notable for setting specific percentage requirements for planting native species across all landscape types, which is not commonly seen in similar legislation in other cities. It mandates that 100% of all new plantings in certain city-owned lands be native species, with varying percentages for other city-owned properties. 

Scottsdale, Arizona: Scottsdale’s Native Plant Ordinance, first adopted in 1981 and revised over the years, is often cited as groundbreaking. It was established with the understanding that indigenous plants contribute significantly to the community’s aesthetic and economic well-being. The ordinance includes a detailed list of protected plants and requires a native plant program detailing the proposed treatment of each plant impacted by land development. Non-compliance can result in significant fines, earmarked for plant replacement. This ordinance highlights the city’s commitment to protecting and conserving native plants as a significant natural and visual resource. 

Initiatives like these not only beautify these cities but also play a critical role in combating challenges faced by local governments in managing stormwater and climate change. Native plantings also play a crucial role in supporting wildlife and educating the public about the importance of ecological balance. 

Call to Action: Make a change in your community 

Each of us has the responsibility to promote the use of native plants in our communities.  Here’s how you can become a champion for native plants and natural landscapes right where you live: 

  • Educate Yourself and Others: Learn about the benefits of native plants and share this knowledge within your community. Wild Ones offers a wealth of resources and educational opportunities. You can explore this website for the latest news on native plants, access free educational materials, and find local chapters for community involvement. Start with Wild Ones’ recent webinar: Wild Ones Presents “Weed Ordinances” w/ Rosanne Plante – YouTube.
  • Advocate for Native Plant Policies: Engage with local government representatives, city councils, and planning commissions. Present the case for native plant ordinances, highlighting the successes of cities like Jersey City. Public support and awareness can drive policy changes. 
  • Participate in your local Wild Ones Chapter: Join or form groups committed to promoting native plant landscaping. Find your local Wild Ones Chapter. Chapters can lead collaborative efforts such as community garden projects, public education programs, and policy advocacy. 
  • Implement Native Plant Landscaping: Whether you have a yard, balcony, or community space, you can contribute by planting native species. Encouraging neighbors and local businesses to do the same can amplify the impact. Get inspired by a native garden design near you
  • Certify your habitat with Wild Ones: Protect your habitat and gain credibility when municipalities or weed police are knocking on your door. Having your habitat recognized by an established organization like Wild Ones shows that your landscaping choices are intentional and part of a broader effort to support native plants and ecological health.

By taking these steps, you can help to create a movement towards more sustainable, ecologically friendly communities. Every plant counts, and every voice can make a difference.