Lawn Removal Credit

Bill S2099, sponsored by Senator James Holzapfel, was recently introduced to the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee. This particular legislation is of significance to property owners around Barnegat Bay for its potential economic and environmental impacts. Under this legislation, NJ Taxpayers owning property within 1000ft of Barnegat Bay are entitled to a recurring annual gross state income tax credit of $250 should they choose to “replace all grass lawns on their property with stones, crushed shells or other similar materials that require no maintenance from fertilizers, liming materials, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides or other chemical agents that could eventually flow into Barnegat Bay.” This tax credit is also available to eligible property owners who have replaced their grass lawns in this manner prior to the effective date of this act.

Moreover, the passage of this bill is critical for supporting the health of the Barnegat Bay ecosystem. The removal of lawns near coastal waters will prevent runoff from fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, liming materials, and other chemical agents from polluting Barnegat Bay. Currently, chemical runoff is directly responsible for depleting oxygen levels in coastal waters, fostering algal blooms, rendering waters unfit for recreational use, and degrading water quality and coastal ecosystems. These harmful environmental impacts reduce the range and capacity of Barnegat Bay’s ecosystem services to support coastal peoples, flora, and fauna.

In its current state, the bill incentivizes the removal of lawns, but not the planting of native vegetation in the vacated lawn space. Native plants are naturally water and soil conserving, given their biological adaptations to local ecosystems. Their root systems are typically longer than non-native species, like turf grass, allowing for higher levels of soil water retention and soil aeration. Native plants also provide many valuable ecosystem services including carbon sequestration, soil erosion control, nitrogen/phosphorus uptake, and watershed protection. For these reasons, bill S2099 could be improved by stipulating that native plants should be planted in addition to the removed lawns of eligible property owners.

It is likely the bill will get passed and become law with vocal support from our constituents. We want to put pressure on representatives to vote in favor of this bill and take proactive steps towards reducing the harmful effects of chemical runoff on coastal ecosystems, while also supporting the expansion of native coastal ecosystems through the planting of native plants. By vocalizing your support for this bill and supporting its passage you could experience its rewarding environmental, social, and economic impacts including monetary compensation, cleaner waters for recreational use, and scenic/healthy coastal ecosystems that support vibrant populations of local plants and animals. 

Please email the following representatives to show your support for this bill: