TRENTON, NJ — Legislation inspired by students from Princeton designating the endangered bog turtle as the New Jersey state reptile has been signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“I am so proud of the successful effort of students at Riverside Elementary and their teacher, Mark Eastburn, to name the bog turtle as New Jersey’s official reptile,”  said Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Somerset/Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex), who sponsored the bill. “I applaud their political advocacy. Fostering civic engagement at a young age builds academic and social success. Together we will save New Jersey’s bog turtles from extinction.”

Bateman introduced the bill after a group of students and teachers in Princeton began raising awareness of the plight of the bog turtle in New Jersey. The students built a turtle garden at the school and started a campaign to encourage their local officials to protect the bog turtle by naming the creature the New Jersey State Reptile.

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Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16th) successfully steered a similar bill through the state Assembly.

Eastburn and two students involved in the fight to save the bog turtle joined Bateman to testify in support of his bill in March at the Senate State Government Committee hearing and to see it pass the state Senate on April 12.

The bog turtle, one of the smallest and rarest turtles in North America, is endangered in New Jersey. Previously, the reptile could be found in all but three counties statewide. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection have partnered with landowners to preserve bog turtle habitats, recognizing the critical need to protect the turtle from extinction.

Although a majority of states have named a state reptile, New Jersey had yet to designate one.

“I know that these kids have a bright future ahead of them and I look forward to watching them continue to fight for the causes they believe in,” Bateman added. “Encouraging the next generation to get involved in the legislative process is incredibly important.”