The New Jersey Sierra Club is criticizing multimillionaire Governor’s Phil Murphy’s decision to reverse his 2018 executive order banning bear hunting on public lands.
The New Jersey Sierra Club is instead advocating for a management plan that includes education, science, and public outreach before turning to hunting bears but the former Wall Street executive appears set to stab his earliest supporters in the back.
On June 21, 2021, New Jersey’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP) expired, and in accordance with a September 27, 2007 Supreme Court ruling, no black bear hunt can occur without it.
A properly-promulgated CBBMP must be proposed by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council and approved by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.
“Governor Murphy is failing to keep his commitment on stopping the bear hunt. The justification for reversing the 2018 EO, which prevented the bear hunt on state lands, is not clear. In order to reduce nuisance cases with bears, we need a real management plan that will deal with educating the public on how to live with bears and bear-proofing their property. Seeing bears in the woods does not provide justification for hunting them,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club.
“The NJDEP will be launching a broader Wildlife Management and Public Safety Initiative in addition to the black bear hunt – a pilot management plan advancing non-lethal strategies including trash management. We believe this pilot plan should be conducted before resorting to the bear hunt on state lands,” said Ramos-Busot. “Additionally, when we look at Fish and Wildlife reports, an increase in sightings and nuisance is observed from 2019 to 2020, this can be attributed to the pandemic.”
“Most of us were working from home and with the ability to be more outdoors, therefore an increase in sighthings was expected. However from 2020 to 202, there is almost a 50% decrease in both sightings and nuisance cases,” said Ramos-Busot. “The New Jersey Chapter recognizes that there has been an increase in sightings and nuisance cases in general this year, however we strongly urge Governor Murphy to keep his commitment and resort to the broad non-lethal pilot management plan before allowing the hunt of bears.”
“Better management of our garbage, efficient signage indicating Do’s and Don’ts, educational materials at trail heads, enforcement of no bear feeding and bear-proofing properties in areas with a high population (bear country) are necessary practices that will go far beyond hunting more bears,” said Ramos-Busot. “We want to see comprehensive action of these tactics before we kill more bears.”
Murphy reversed course on his years-long promise to end the state’s annual bear hunt, meaning it could resume as early as next month.
Murphy said that the state’s Fish and Game Council will meet next week to consider game code amendments that would allow the hunt’s resumption starting next month.
Murphy cited a sharp increase in bear sightings and bear-human interactions, as well as predictions by wildlife officials that the state’s bear population could grow to more than 4,000 in the next two years.
If the changes are approved, the hunt would be held from Dec. 5-10.
Additional hunting would be allowed from Dec. 14-17 if the goal to reduce the bear population by 20 percent isn’t achieved in the first hunt.
Murphy said he felt he had no choice about resuming the hunt, which was not held last year. In previous years, he had barred bear hunting on public lands that are under the jurisdiction of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
“While I committed to ending the bear hunt, the data demands that we act now to prevent tragic bear-human interactions,” Murphy said.
The decision was criticized by environmental activists and hunt opponents.
“This is a betrayal of the public trust for political purposes.” said Jeff Tittel, the former longtime leader of the state’s Sierra Club chapter. “Gov. Murphy is doing the hunt as emergency rule. However, he will not sign an emergency rule for climate change. flooding, cleaning up toxic sites or protecting our drinking water. But he will do it to shoot bears.”
The bear hunt was reintroduced in New Jersey in 2003 to control the growing bear population, after a nearly three-decade hiatus. Before last year, it had been held annually since 2010 and repeatedly faced ongoing legal challenges from animal protection organizations.
In 2015, Republican Gov. Chris Christie added a second annual hunt in October to the existing hunt in December, increased the number of hunting permits and allowed bow hunting.
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