WESTFIELD, NJ — Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick held a press conference Friday at his home in Westfield to talk about legislation that encourages homeowners to provide native habitats for birds and other wildlife. The bi-partisan bill, which passed the New Jersey General Assembly in June with unanimous support (76-0), establishes a native species habitat certification program and would make it easier for homeowners to grow native grasses and other native plants.
“It’s not government getting in your face. It’s government getting out of your face,” said Bramnick.
Bramnick said that the bill was inspired by his wife, Patricia Brentano, who convinced him to help her transform their yard into habitat that supports local wildlife, including birds and pollinating insects. To demonstrate her point, Brentano later showed off native wildflowers in her backyard, audibly buzzing with bees.
“I’m very concerned that my granddaughter will live in a sterile world with no food,” Brentano said.
In front of their home, Bramnick told the crowd, “It’s not, as you can see, a traditional front lawn,” pointing out the native grasses that grow there. Bramnick said he has never received complaints about what’s growing in their yard.
Brentano, an artist, runs the Facebook page Rescaping the Suburbs with the New Jersey Audubon Society about adding native plants to suburban properties. She has been growing plants that support wildlife for more than five years, she said, and she hopes that Westfield will lead the way in doing so in New Jersey. Plans are underway to use grant money to add native plantings to Mindwaskin Park, she noted.
Mayor Andy Skibitsky expressed his support.
“You can see how passionate Patricia is, and that’s why we put her on our Green Team,” said Skibitsky. “We do want to make Westfield a community to showcase this idea.”
In addition looking beautiful, Brentano said, native plantings need little maintenance and help reduce the amount of water and pesticides used. For more information about native plantings, she recommended visiting www.njaudubon.org.
The legislation was sponsored by Bramnick, Assembly Appropriations Chairman John Burzichelli and Deputy Republican Leader Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz. Before it can become law, it must next pass in the New Jersey Senate and be signed by Governor Chris Christie.
“I think it’s all part of a big package of non-regulatory things that people can do,” said Kelly Mooij, vice president of government relations at New Jersey Auduban Society. “It’s all about people taking an active role in their backyards.”
Brentano said she hopes that more consumer demand for native plants will lead to more availability, too.
“Small steps, big changes,” Brentano said. “It’s a mindset change.”