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New Jersey May Soon Have an Official State Reptile

The Senate State Government, Waging, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-16) to designate the bog turtle as New Jersey’s Official State Reptile.

From left: Vita Moss-Wang, a Princeton fifth-grader at Riverside Elementary School, Avi Weiss, a Princeton sixth-grader at John Witherspoon Middle School, Senator Kip Bateman, and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker before testifying in support of making the endangered bog turtle New Jersey’s Official State Reptile. (SenateNJ.com)

“You used to be able to find bog turtles almost anywhere in New Jersey, but habitat destruction has really taken its toll here,” Senator Bateman said. “We have to act fast before bog turtles are gone from the Garden State forever. I am very grateful to the students at Riverside Elementary and their teacher, Mark Eastburn, for inspiring me to become a fierce advocate for this unique and special creature. Together we will work hard to save New Jersey’s bog turtles from extinction.”

Senator 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.

Princeton students Avi Weiss (left) and Vita Moss-Wang (center) joined Senator Kip Bateman at the March 26, 2018 Senate State Government Committee Hearing, to testify in support of his bill to designate the bog turtle as New Jersey’s Official State Reptile.

Two students involved in the fight to save the bog turtle joined Senator Bateman at today’s committee hearing to lend their support for his bill. Their teacher, Mark Eastburn, was also in attendance to testify in favor of the legislation.

“From their first letters to Senator Bateman, to the Senator’s introduction of the first state reptile bill, and now to statewide activism between schools for bills in both the State Senate and General Assembly, this project has been a wonderfully enlightening opportunity for children to learn how their state government works. What impressed me the most was their perseverance; they have now been working on this process for more than a year, with no signs of giving up until their favorite turtle is recognized as a state symbol.”

New Jersey already has a new state reptile.

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 US Department of Fish and Wildlife and the NJ DEP have partnered with land owners to preserve bog turtle habitats, recognizing the critical need to protect the turtle from extinction.

Although a majority of US States have a State Reptile, New Jersey has yet to designate one.

A copy of Senator Bateman’s legislation (S-1925) to designate the bog turtle as the New Jersey State Reptile can be found here.

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