December 15, 2023 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and David Joyce (OH-14), and Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Mike Braun (R-IN), introduced the Building Native Habitats at Federal Facilities Act. This legislation encourages federal agencies to incorporate native plants in local landscaping projects.
Native plants are crucial to food supply chains and provide habitat for native fauna and mitigate, filter, and retain stormwater that otherwise floods neighborhoods and causes polluted rivers. Additionally, native plants do not need to be routinely watered once established and come back year after year. This reduces landscaping maintenance, including fertilization and pest control, therefore cutting down on long-term costs and seasonal efforts to maintain federal landscapes.
“I am excited to expand on New Jersey’s storied history as the ‘Garden State’ with the Building Native Habitats at Federal Facilities Act. Native plants offer a wide range of benefits, including providing natural habitats for animals, offering flood protection by filtering and retaining stormwater, and requiring less maintenance – which will save money for New Jersey families, businesses, and municipalities,” said Rep. Sherrill. “I am grateful to the environmental advocates across New Jersey who brought this issue to my attention and I look forward to our continued partnership as I work to address flooding, protect our planet, and lower costs for New Jerseyans.”
“As co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, I recognize the importance of helping to restore natural habitats and protect endangered wildlife,” said Congressman Joyce. “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will promote the use of native plants, restore natural habitats, and cultivate more native plants in local communities across Ohio and the country. I urge my colleagues in both chambers to work swiftly to pass this legislation.”
“Federal facilities are ideal proving grounds for scaling best practices in managing our landscapes, prioritizing healthy and resilient native plants,” said Senator Heinrich. “Native plants provide key benefits for pollinators and our environment. And the savings from their lower maintenance needs also make them a responsible and cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars.”
“Indiana is home to a great variety of native plants that provide a significant purpose to our ecosystems, such as shelter for local species or retaining stormwater that would otherwise flood communities. This legislation would promote the use of native plants across the country which helps fulfill our responsibility as stewards of the environment and saves taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Braun.
“We applaud Representatives Sherrill and Joyce and Senators Heinrich and Braun on this legislation,” said Dr. Barbara Brummer, New Jersey State Director at The Nature Conservancy. “Embracing native plants in landscapes isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a vital commitment to the survival of pollinators and wildlife. Native plantings support species diversity, creating vibrant habitats that sustain and nurture our natural world.”
“New Jersey may be nicknamed “The Garden State” but not enough of those gardens feature our very own native plants, like pasture rose or butterfly weed. Some of our native plants may have even disappeared altogether, including three of our seven species of gentians. Every time a native plant goes extinct, we lose a little wonder, but our pollinators and other wildlife may lose much more: their home, their food, their environment. We can and should use more native plants in our landscaping and the federal government can lead by example if Congress passes Rep. Sherrill’s Building Native Habitats Act,” said Doug O’Malley, Director, Environment New Jersey.
“For decades in America, we’ve paved over our prairies, replaced our native wild plants for ornamentals, and sprayed pesticides over nearly every field, meadow and forest. Now, our nearly 5,000 species of bees and butterflies are paying the price for our progress. Restoring native plants to the landscape will not only make America more beautiful, but expand the habitat that pollinators need to thrive again. That’s why Environment America supports the bipartisan Building Native Habitats Act,” said Lisa Frank, Executive Director, Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office.
“The Native Plant Society of New Jersey (NPSNJ) strongly supports the passage of the ‘Building Native Habitats with Federal Projects Act’ which encourages the federal government to help safeguard and promote one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures, its native plants. Federal agencies and their partners have long used native plants, which provide critical ecological services, for habitat restoration projects. However, many other federally funded projects, that could provide connecting corridors for many species of wildlife, have not. This legislation would provide many benefits that would augment efforts by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey’s conservation organizations, and similar agencies and organizations across the country. NPSNJ and its members strongly promote the use of native plants on private lands, as well as local, state, and federal projects,” said Randi V. Wilfert Eckel, PhD, President, Native Plant Society of New Jersey.
““Native plants are critical to help birds, pollinators, and other wildlife find food and shelter in a changing climate,” said Marlene Pantin, Plants for Birds partnership manager at the National Audubon Society. “As one of the nation’s largest landowners, the federal government undertakes a significant number of projects each year in our communities. This bill would deliver benefits for people and wildlife by prioritizing the use of native plants in landscape projects.”
The Building Native Habitats at Federal Facilities Act mandates that federal agencies prioritize native plants when engaging in landscaping work and update their agency facility design standards. Additionally, the legislation encourages the creation of a new public report that will share best practices on how to promote native habitats across federal facilities.
Rep. Sherrill’s legislation has earned the endorsement of national and statewide environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, American Public Gardens Association, Center for Plant Conservation, Environment America, National Native Plant Month, Native Plant Conservation Campaign, The Nature Conservancy, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Sierra Club, Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Homegrown National Park, the Audubon Society of New Jersey, Environment America – New Jersey, Native Plant Society of New Jersey, Nature Conservancy of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Rep. Sherrill is a leader in the fight against climate change and efforts to curb flooding in New Jersey. She championed two pieces of legislation– the PRECIP and FLOODS Acts– to improve rainfall forecasting and increase communication prior to major flood events. She helped secure millions of dollars in Community Project funding as well as through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to protect New Jersey’s open spaces, invest in clean energy, and improve flood mitigation corridors in New Jersey’s 11th District.
Photo taken at Reynolda Gardens in Winston Salem, North Carolina