Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Jersey Republicans, Democrats Join to Protect Turtle Species

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Jersey Republicans, Democrats Join to Protect Turtle Species

Article excerpt

It's official: Terrapin is off the menu in New Jersey.

On Friday, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation to ban the hunting of diamondback terrapin. Christie's apparent support of the bill, which was proposed by a Democratic-controlled legislature, is a rare moment of concession between two polarized political parties. Is conservation an issue that can bridge the party gap?

The diamondback terrapin is a species of swamp-dwelling turtle, so named for the diamond-shaped patterns on its shell. It can be found along the entire Eastern Seaboard, and lived in great numbers until the 18th century. Considered a delicacy, the species was nearly hunted to extinction until the 1900s, when federal officials acknowledged its decline.

There is still a commercial market for terrapin meat - a major concern for conservationists who already fear for the terrapin's waning population. Urbanization has destroyed many of the salt marshes where terrapin historically lived, and passing cars are a constant threat for individual turtles. Some states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, have listed the terrapin as endangered or threatened, but the species has no federal conservation status.

"Today we join other Atlantic coastal states that have taken an important step to prevent this unique species from any further decline toward extinction," Christie said in a statement. "The diamondback terrapin is a natural treasure and integral part of our coastal landscape in New Jersey, and this action will help to ensure the species remains a feature of our natural landscape for generations to come."

The bill's passing is a victory for terrapins and conservationists alike. But it may also represent a shift in thought, a place where Republicans and Democrats can actually agree.

The Republican party has transformed in recent years. …

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