Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Conservation groups praise felony protection for Venus flytraps

A new law that would make Venus flytrap poaching a felony has passed the General Assembly and has been presented to the governor for final approval.

Palettes of Venus flytraps ready for planting at Wilmington's Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden in this file photo from October 2013. Cape Fear Community College landscape-gardening students dug them into place, replacing more than 1,000 stolen from the garden in May of that year. Photo by Ben Brown.
Palettes of Venus flytraps ready for planting at Wilmington’s Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, October 2013. File photo.

The law, which would become effective Dec. 1, makes flytrap poaching a class H felony—up from its current misdemeanor status—and punishable by up to 25 months in prison.

Conservation groups are praising the new law, a version of which was first introduced by Rep. Ted Davis of New Hanover County.

In a release, Camilla Herlevich, director of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, said: “We hope that by elevating the charge, people will think twice about stealing our natural heritage. Thanks to Rep. Ted Davis Jr. for leading the effort to make this change, which is important for southeast North Carolina.”

Previous story: Upped flytrap protection may expand statewide

The release, issued Tuesday by The Nature Conservancy, notes efforts by the conservancy’s Government Relations Director Will Morgan and Coastal Land Trust attorney Meryl Murtagh in working with Davis and other legislators on the law.

“We appreciate Rep. Davis’ persistent effort to shepherd this bill through the legislature, and his willingness to work in cooperation with the state’s conservation community,” Morgan said in the release. “Thanks to his leadership, there will now be greater protection for this ecologically and culturally significant plant.”

Found naturally only within a 60-mile radius of Wilmington, Venus flytraps are rare, carnivorous plants that have been threatened by poaching and loss of habitat.

The release notes that lands protected by the Coastal Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy have lost flytraps as a result of poaching, which is a common occurrence in southeastern North Carolina. Last year, a large, public carnivorous plant garden in Wilmington was the victim of more than 1,000 thefts.

Making the crime a Class H felony could mean jail time for violators—a stiffer punishment than the misdemeanor fines imposed on first-time offenders ($10 to $50, though repeat offenders could draw larger penalties).

While Davis’ bill previously sought to make the crime a felony only in southeastern North Carolina, the law that passed both chambers of the legislature this year makes flytrap poaching a felony statewide—fitting in that the Venus flytrap is the official carnivorous plant of North Carolina.

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