Bill Text: NJ A985 | 2020-2021 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Prohibits certain actions relative to endangered and threatened plant species; directs DEP commissioner to take certain actions to protect endangered and threatened plant species.

Spectrum: Bipartisan Bill

Status: (Introduced) 2020-01-14 - Introduced, Referred to Assembly Agriculture Committee [A985 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2020-A985-Introduced.html

ASSEMBLY, No. 985

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2020 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  HERB CONAWAY, JR.

District 7 (Burlington)

Assemblyman  KEVIN J. ROONEY

District 40 (Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Prohibits certain actions relative to endangered and threatened plant species; directs DEP commissioner to take certain actions to protect endangered and threatened plant species.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.

  


An Act concerning endangered and threatened plant species, supplementing Title 13 of the Revised Statutes, and amending P.L.1988, c.127 and P.L.1989, c.56.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    (New section) Sections 1 through 9 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall be known and may be cited as the "New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Plant Protection Act."

 

     2.    (New section) The Legislature finds and declares that:

     a.     endangered and threatened plant species and native ecological communities are entitled to protection as a matter of general State concern;

     b.    New Jersey's endangered and threatened plant species and ecological communities have immense medicinal, historical, ecological, educational, recreational, scientific, and aesthetic value;

     c.     many plants and ecological communities native to New Jersey are in jeopardy due to the activities of man, the overabundance of species such as white-tailed deer, and the ever-present threat of invasive species;

     d.    the federal "Endangered Species Act of 1973," Pub.L.93-205 (16 U.S.C. s.1533 et al.) provides for the protection of wild plants and animals threatened with extinction, and the State has enacted similar legislation for wildlife in the form of the "Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act" P.L.1973, c.309 (C.23:2A-1 et seq.); and 

     e.  the State has a responsibility to protect and conserve its endangered and threatened plants, and sensitive ecological communities for the present generation and generations yet to come. 

 

     3.    (New section) As used in sections 1 through 9 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill):

     "Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Environmental Protection.

     "Department" means the Department of Environmental Protection.

     "Endangered and threatened plant species" means any species listed on the State list of endangered or threatened plant species developed and maintained by Division of Parks and Forestry in the Department of Environmental Protection pursuant to the "Endangered Plant Species List Act," P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.151 et seq.).

      4.   (New section) a. Except as otherwise provided in P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) or any rules or regulations adopted pursuant thereto, no person shall:

     (1)   transport, export, or import an endangered or threatened plant species in the State unless the endangered or threatened plant species;

     (a)   enters the State from another state, or from outside of the United States;

     (b)   is destined for a point outside the State; and

     (c)   is transported in accordance with the terms of a permit issued under the laws or regulations of the federal government or another state;

     (2)   willfully damage or destroy an endangered or threatened plant species on State-owned property;

     (3)   remove, cut, dig up, destroy, or otherwise intentionally damage an endangered or threatened plant species if the person knows, or should have known, that the species is an endangered or threatened plant species;

     (4)   damage or destroy an endangered or threatened plant species during the course of a criminal trespass; 

     (5)   sell or offer to sell an endangered or threatened plant species; or

     (6)   violate any rule or regulation pertaining to endangered or threatened plant species adopted by the commissioner pursuant to P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     b.    The commissioner may authorize, under conditions as may be prescribed by rule or regulation adopted pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), the possession, transport, import, export, sale or offer for sale, or shipment of an endangered or threatened plant species for: scientific, zoological, or educational purposes; propagation in captivity of an endangered or threatened plant species; or for other special purposes consistent with P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). 

     c.     Nothing in P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto, shall interfere with typical and existing agricultural or aquacultural operations. 

 

     5.    (New section)  a.  The commissioner shall establish, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), any programs, including acquisition of land or aquatic habitats, as are deemed necessary for the conservation and management of endangered and threatened plant species.

     b.    In carrying out a program established pursuant to subsection a. of this section, the commissioner may enter into agreements with federal agencies, political subdivisions of the State, or private persons, including for the administration of any area utilized for management of endangered and threatened plant species. 

     c.     The commissioner may cooperate with and receive money from the federal government, a county or municipal government, or private sources for the purposes of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  All monies received pursuant to this subsection shall be deposited into the fund created pursuant to section 6 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.156), and shall be used for the purposes of conserving endangered and threatened plant species. 

     d.    The department shall adopt, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), rules and regulations necessary for the implementation and administration of this section.

 

     6.    (New section)  a.  (1) The commissioner shall establish a committee of experts to be known as the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species Advisory Committee" for the purposes of advising and assisting the commissioner in implementing sections 1 through 9 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). 

     (2)   The "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species Advisory Committee" shall be comprised of nine members appointed by the commissioner with expertise, knowledge, or experience in endangered and threatened species protection or the native plants of New Jersey as follows:

     (a)   three members of the State's academic community;

     (b)   three members from environmental organizations; and

     (c)   three members of the public at large, who may also be affiliated with the academic community or an environmental organization.

     (3)   All appointments to the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species Advisory Committee" shall be made by the commissioner no later than 90 days after the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  Each member shall serve for a term of four years and may be reappointed thereafter.  Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments.  The members of the committee shall serve without compensation, but shall be eligible for reimbursement for necessary and reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the committee for its purposes. 

      b.   The commissioner, in conjunction with the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species Advisory Committee" established pursuant to subsection a. of this section, shall develop conservation plans for the survival and, where appropriate, eventual delisting of endangered and threatened plant species.  The commissioner, in developing and implementing a conservation plan shall, to the maximum extent practicable:

     (1)   give priority to those endangered and threatened plant species, without regard to taxonomic classification, that are most likely to benefit from a conservation plan; and

     (2)   incorporate into each plan:

     (a)   a description of such site-specific management actions as may be necessary to achieve the plan's goal for the conservation and survival of the species;

     (b)   objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in the stabilization and conservation of species population; and

     (c)   estimates of the time required and the cost to carry out those measures needed to achieve the plan's goal and to achieve intermediate steps toward that goal.

      c.    The commissioner shall evaluate and incorporate existing State law, rules, regulations, and policies, and any existing federal plan or information, when prioritizing and creating a conservation plan. 

      d.   The commissioner, when developing and implementing a conservation plan, may procure the services of appropriate public and private agencies and institutions, and other qualified persons.

      e.    The commissioner shall, prior to final approval of a new or revised conservation plan, provide public notice and an opportunity for public review and comment on the plan.  The commissioner shall consider all information presented during the public comment period prior to approval of the plan. 

      f.    The commissioner shall adopt, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), rules and regulations that create a priority system for:

     (1)   identifying species that shall receive review for a conservation plan under subsection b. of this section; and

     (2)   determining the allocation of resources between conservation plans.

 

     7.    (New section) All State agencies, consistent with their authority and responsibilities, shall assist and cooperate with the commissioner to implement P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  Any action funded or carried out by a State agency shall not jeopardize the continued existence or conservation of any endangered or threatened plant species. 

 

      8.   (New section) No person shall obstruct, hinder, delay, or interfere with, by force or otherwise, the performance by the department or its personnel of any duty under the provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or refuse to permit such personnel to perform their duties by refusing them, upon proper identification or presentation of a written order of the department, entrance to any premises at reasonable hours.

     9.    (New section)  a.  Whenever, on the basis of available information, the commissioner finds that a person is in violation of the provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted, or permit or order issued pursuant thereto, the commissioner may:

     (1)   issue an order in accordance with subsection b. of this section requiring the person to comply;

     (2)   bring a civil action in accordance with subsection c. of this section;

     (3)   levy a civil administrative penalty in accordance with subsection d. of this section;

     (4)   bring an action for a civil penalty in accordance with subsection e. of this section; or

     (5)   petition the Attorney General to bring a criminal action in accordance with subsection f. of this section.

     The exercise of any of the remedies provided in this section shall not preclude recourse to any other remedy so provided.

     b.    Whenever, on the basis of available information, the commissioner finds that a person is in violation of any provision of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted, or permit or order issued pursuant thereto, the commissioner may issue an order: (1) specifying the provision P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or the rule or regulation, or order or permit issued pursuant thereto, of which the person is in violation; (2) citing the action that constituted the violation; (3) requiring compliance with the provision of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) or the rule, regulation, order or permit issued pursuant thereto, of which the person is in violation; (4) requiring the restoration to address any adverse effects resulting from the violation; and (5) giving notice to the person of a right to a hearing on the matters contained in the order.

     c.     The commissioner is hereby authorized and empowered to commence a civil action in Superior Court for appropriate relief from a violation of the provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted, or any permit or order issued pursuant thereto.  This relief may include, singly or in combination:

     (1)   a temporary or permanent injunction;

     (2)   recovery of reasonable costs of any investigation, inspection, sampling, or monitoring survey that led to the discovery of the violation, and for the reasonable costs of preparing and bringing a civil action commenced under this subsection;

     (3)   recovery of reasonable costs incurred by the State in removing, correcting, or terminating the adverse effects resulting from any violation of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) for which a civil action has been commenced and brought under this subsection;

     (4)   recovery of compensatory damages for any loss or destruction of natural resources, including, but not limited to, wildlife, fish, aquatic life, habitat, plants, or historic or archeological resources, and for any other actual damages caused by any violation for which a civil action has been commenced and brought under this subsection.  Assessments under this subsection shall be paid to the fund established pursuant to section 6 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.156), except that compensatory damages to privately held resources shall be paid by specific order of the court to any persons who have been aggrieved by the unauthorized activity;

     (5)   an order requiring that the violator restore the site of the violation to the maximum extent practicable and feasible or, in the event that restoration of the site of the violation is not practicable or feasible, provide for off-site restoration alternatives as approved by the department.

      d.   The commissioner is authorized to assess a civil administrative penalty of not more than $25,000 for each violation of the provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), and each day during which each violation continues shall constitute an additional, separate, and distinct offense.  Any amount assessed under this subsection shall fall within a range established by regulation by the commissioner for violations of similar type, seriousness, duration, and conduct; provided, however, that prior to the adoption of the regulation, the commissioner may, on a case-by-case basis, assess civil administrative penalties up to a maximum of $25,000 per day for each violation.  In addition to any administrative penalty to be assessed under this subsection, and notwithstanding the $25,000 maximum penalty set forth above, the commissioner may assess any economic benefits from the violation gained by the violator.  Prior to assessment of a penalty under this subsection, the property owner or person committing the violation shall be notified by certified mail or personal service that the penalty is being assessed.  The notice shall include a reference to the section of the statute, regulation, or order or permit condition violated; recite the facts alleged to constitute a violation; state the basis for the amount of the civil penalties to be assessed; and affirm the rights of the alleged violator to a hearing.  The ordered party shall have 35 calendar days from receipt of the notice within which to deliver to the commissioner a written request for a hearing.  After the hearing and upon finding that a violation has occurred, the commissioner may issue a final order after assessing the amount of the fine specified in the notice.  If no hearing is requested, the notice shall become a final order after the expiration of the 35-day period.  Payment of the assessment is due when a final order is issued or the notice becomes a final order.  The authority to levy an administrative order is in addition to all other enforcement provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), and the payment of any assessment shall not be deemed to affect the availability of any other enforcement provisions in connection with the violation for which the assessment is levied.  The department may compromise any civil administrative penalty assessed under this section in an amount and with conditions the department determines appropriate.  A civil administrative penalty assessed, including a portion thereof required to be paid pursuant to a payment schedule approved by the department, which is not paid within 90 days of the date that payment of the penalty is due, shall be subject to an interest charge on the amount of the penalty, or portion thereof, which shall accrue as of the date payment is due.  If the penalty is contested, no additional interest charge shall accrue on the amount of the penalty until after the date on which a final order is issued.  Interest charges assessed and collectible pursuant to this subsection shall be based on the rate of interest on judgments provided in the New Jersey Rules of Court.

     e.     A person who violates any provision of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted, or permit or order issued pursuant thereto, or an order issued pursuant to subsection b. of this section, or a court order issued pursuant to subsection c. of this section, or who fails to pay in full a civil administrative penalty levied pursuant to subsection d. of this section, or who fails to make a payment pursuant to a penalty payment schedule entered into with the department, or who knowingly makes any false or misleading statement on any application, record, report, or other document required to be submitted to the department, shall be subject, upon order of a court, to a civil penalty not to exceed $25,000 for each day during which the violation continues.  Any civil penalty imposed pursuant to this subsection may be collected with costs in a summary proceeding pursuant to the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999," P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).  In addition to any penalties, costs, or interest charges, the court may assess against the violator the amount of economic benefit accruing to the violator from the violation.  The Superior Court and municipal courts shall have jurisdiction to enforce the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999."

     f.     A person who purposely, knowingly, or recklessly violates any provision of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted, or permit or order issued pursuant thereto, shall be guilty, upon conviction, of a crime of the third degree and shall, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, be subject to a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $50,000 per day of violation, or to imprisonment, or both.  A person who purposely, knowingly, or recklessly makes a false statement, representation, or certification in any application, record, or other document filed or required to be maintained under any provision of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted, or permit or order issued pursuant thereto; or who falsifies, tampers with, or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly renders inaccurate, any monitoring device or method required to be maintained pursuant to P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or any rule or regulation adopted, or permit or order issued pursuant thereto, shall be guilty, upon conviction, of a crime of the third degree and shall, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, be subject to a fine of not more than $50,000 per day of violation, or to imprisonment, or both.

     g.    All penalties collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the fund established pursuant to section 6 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.156), and appropriated to the department for the authorized purposes of the fund.

     h.    An applicant or permittee, upon the request of the department, shall provide any information the department requires to determine compliance with any provision of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or of any rule or regulation adopted, or permit or order issued pursuant thereto.

 

     10.  Section 2 of P.L.1988, c.127 (C.13:1B-15.147) is amended to read as follows:

     2.    There is established in the Division of Parks and Forestry, Department of Environmental Protection, a Natural Heritage Program.  The purpose of the program is to :

     a.     identify the most critically important natural areas in the State, including those areas that are of critical importance to the species listed pursuant to the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species List Act," P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.151 et seq.), or "The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act," P.L.1973, c.309 (C.23:2A-1 et seq.), or any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto; and

     b.    provide detailed up-to-date information on [rare species] species of fauna or flora that are of special concern, rare, threatened, or endangered, and natural communities , including species location data and land-use and land-cover data regarding critical habitat, to planners, developers, and conservation agencies for use in resource management, environmental impact assessment, and both public and private land protection efforts. 

(cf: P.L.1988, c.127, s.2)

 

     11.  Section 3 of P.L.1988, c.127 (C.13:1B-15.148) is amended to read as follows:

     3.    The functions of the program established pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1988, c.127 (C.13:1B-15.147) shall include, but need not be limited to:

     a.     [Maintaining] maintaining and updating, through data collection and field work, a partially computerized data base which includes lists of species of fauna or flora that are of special concern, rare , threatened, [and] or endangered [species] , and natural communities ranked according to rarity, as well as information on the location, quality, protection status, and sources of information of individual occurrences of [the above] species that are of special concern, rare, threatened, or endangered, and natural communities; and

     b.    [Providing] providing information on species of fauna or flora that are of special concern, rare, threatened, or endangered, and natural community occurrences to other government agencies, consultants, and private landowners seeking to preserve natural diversity and advice on how best to protect these occurrences.

(cf: P.L.1988, c.127, s.3)

 

     12.  Section 1 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.151) is amended to read as follows:

     1.    This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species List Act."

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.1)

 

     13.  Section 2 of P.L.1989, c.56 (13:1B-15.152) is amended to read as follows:

     2.    The Legislature finds and declares that plant species have medicinal, genetic, ecological, educational and aesthetic value to the citizens of New Jersey; that the perpetuation of many plant species native to New Jersey or the United States is in jeopardy; and that a definitive, officially recognized State list of endangered and threatened plant species is needed to eliminate the confusion resulting from various existing unofficial lists which are inconsistent and is a necessary precondition to more effectively and efficiently incorporate the preservation of our State's natural diversity into government planning functions.

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.2)

 

     14.  Section 3 of P.L.1989, c.56 (13:1B-15.153) is amended to read as follows:

     3.    As used in [this act] P.L.1989, c.56 (13:1B-15.151 et seq.) :

     "Commissioner" means the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection[;] .

     "Department" means the Department of Environmental Protection[;] .

     "Endangered species" means any native plant species whose survival in the State or the nation is in jeopardy, including, but not limited to, plant species designated as listed, proposed, or under review by the federal government as endangered [or threatened] throughout its range in the United States pursuant to the "Endangered Species Act of 1973," Pub.L.93-205 (16 U.S.C. s.1533), [any additional species known or believed to be rare throughout its worldwide range,] and any species having five or fewer extant populations within the State[;] .

     "Plant" means any member of the Plant Kingdom, including all roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, spores, gametophytes and other parts thereof [;] .

     "Species" means any species, subspecies, or variety of plant.

     "Threatened species" means any native plant species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range, including, but not limited to, plant species designated as listed, proposed, or under review by the federal government as threatened throughout its range in the United States pursuant to the "Endangered Species Act of 1973," Pub.L.93-205 (16 U.S.C. s.1533).

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.3)

 

     15.  Section 4 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.154) is amended to read as follows:

     4.    a. Within one year of the effective date of [this act] P.L.1989, c.56 (13:1B-15.151 et seq.) , the Division of Parks and Forestry in the Department of Environmental Protection shall, on the basis of research and investigations and other available scientific data on plant species, and with the benefit of public comment, develop and adopt, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), a list of plant species occurring in the State which are endangered, either by the destruction, drastic modification, or severe curtailment of their habitat; their over-collection for aesthetic, commercial, educational, recreational, or scientific purposes; the effect on them of disease, pollution, or predation; or any other factor or combination of factors, natural or man-made.

     b.    Within one year after the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the Division of Parks and Forestry in the Department of Environmental Protection shall adopt, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), a list of threatened species in the State.

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.4)

 

     16.  Section 5 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.155) is amended to read as follows:

     5.    Within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the department for this purpose, the commissioner shall direct research and investigations relating to historical records, populations, distribution, critical habitat needs, limiting factors, and other biological and ecological data that will aid in determining the eligibility of a plant species for inclusion on the endangered or threatened plant species list.

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.5)

 

     17.  Section 6 of P.L.1989, c. 56 (C.13:1B-15.156) is amended to read as follows:

     6.    The commissioner may cooperate with, and accept moneys from, the federal government, or any county or municipal government, or from any other State or private source to carry out [this act] P.L.1989, c. 56 (C.13:1B-15.151 et seq.) and P.L.    , c.     (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill.  The commissioner [may] shall establish a separate fund [from] for these contributions for the support of endangered or threatened plant species.

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.6)

 

     18.  Section 7 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.157) is amended to read as follows:

     7.    Within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the department for this purpose, the commissioner shall develop and implement any educational or informational programs deemed necessary to inform the public as to the status and significance of endangered and threatened plant species in the State.

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.7)

 

     19.  Section 8 of P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.158) is amended to read as follows:

     8.    The department shall, within 90 days of the effective date of [this act] P.L.1989, c.56 (13:1B-15.151 et seq.) and pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," propose rules and regulation governing the formulation, and any revision, of the endangered and threatened plant species list to be adopted pursuant to section 4 of [this act] P.L.1989, c.56 (13:1B-15.151 et seq.) .

(cf: P.L.1989, c.56, s.8)

 

     20.  This act shall take effect on the first day of the 12th month next following the date of enactment. 

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill, named the "New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Plant Protection Act," would prohibit certain actions relative to endangered and threatened plant species, and would direct the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to establish programs for protection of endangered and threatened plant species.

     The bill would define "endangered and threatened plant species" as any species on the respective lists developed by the Division of Parks and Forestry in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) pursuant to the "Endangered Plant Species List Act," P.L.1989, c.56 (C.13:1B-15.151 et seq.).  The bill would create a new category of protection under that act named "threatened plant species" which is defined as any native plant species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range, including, but not limited to, plant species designated as listed, proposed, or under review by the federal government as threatened throughout its range in the United States pursuant to the federal "Endangered Species Act of 1973."  Consequently, the bill would also rename the State law to be the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species List Act."

     The bill would prohibit the following actions relative to endangered and threatened plant species, without a permit: transport, export, import; willfully damaging, or destroying a listed plant species on State property; removing, cutting, digging up, damaging or otherwise intentionally destroying a listed plant species if the person knows, or should have known, that the species is a listed plant species; damaging or destroying a listed plant species during the course of a criminal trespass; and selling or offering to sell a listed plant species.  The bill includes exceptions for typical and existing agricultural and aquacultural operations, and allows the commissioner to allow exceptions for research, educational, and other purposes consistent with the bill. 

     The bill would require the commissioner to establish programs, including the acquisition of land or aquatic habitats, as are deemed necessary for the conservation and management of endangered and threatened plant species.  The bill provides that the commissioner may receive money from the federal government, private sources, and others to be deposited into the fund created by the "Endangered Plant Species List Act," to be used for the purposes of the bill. 

     The bill would also direct the commissioner to establish the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species Advisory Committee" for advising and assisting the commissioner.  The committee would be comprised of three members of the State's academic community, three members from environmental organizations, and three members of the public at large, who may also be affiliated with the academic community or an environmental organization.  The committee members would be appointed by the commissioner and be required to have expertise, knowledge, or experience in endangered and threatened species protection or the native plants of New Jersey.

     The commissioner would also be required to develop conservation plans for the conservation and survival of endangered plant species in conjunction with the "Endangered and Threatened Plant Species Advisory Committee."  The bill would provide for public comment on each conservation plan, and require the commissioner to create a system for the prioritization of the creation and implementation of conservation plans. 

     The bill provides substantially similar violation and enforcement provisions as used in the "Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act," P.L.1973, c.309 (C.23:2A-1 et seq.). All moneys collected for a violation would be deposited into the fund created by the "Endangered Plant Species List Act."  The bill would also amend the "Endangered Plant Species List Act" to provide that monies in the fund created pursuant to that act may also be used to implement this bill.  Additionally, the bill amends provisions of law to clarify the responsibilities of the Natural Heritage Program in developing and maintaining the list of endangered and threatened plant species, and plant species of concern.  The Natural Heritage Program established by statute in 1988, requires the DEP to identify the most critically important natural areas in the State.

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