Background on the Black Bear Controversy As reported last month—in a move driven by deep-pocketed anti-hunting extremist groups, including the Humane Society of the United States—New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy flew in the face of his state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife scientists and his state’s sportsmen and announced an executive order directing Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine McCabe to close all public lands to the state’s bear season during the upcoming October and December hunts. McCabe then followed through on Aug. 30 with an administrative order directing the DEP to close all state lands to bear hunting.
“This is just another politically motivated attack on legal, regulated hunting in New Jersey,” said Erica Rhoad, Director of Hunting Policy for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). “As always, NRA-ILA will fight this executive fiat and other attacks on our hunting heritage across the country.”
New Jersey Hunters Fight the Fight As NRAHLF.org reported yesterday, hunter-backed groups like the NRA believe wildlife conservation and game management must be based on science—not politics. Highlighting the fact that New Jersey has one of the highest black bear densities nationwide, NRA-ILA New Jersey State Director Darin Goens noted that an unchecked bear population is a real threat to the public as human-bear interactions increase.
In monitoring the issue, now the NJOA, SCI and the Sportsmen’s Alliance are filing suit in state court to challenge Gov. Murphy’s executive order to close state lands to its legal and scientifically-backed black bear hunt. The three organizations are calling on New Jersey hunters (both residents and nonresidents) who had planned to hunt black bears on public lands this fall and have been affected by the closure.
“New Jersey’s 1.2 million sportsmen are standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners, SCI and the Sportsmen's Alliance, on the front lines of the fight to protect our hunting, fishing and trapping heritage,” said New Jersey Outdoor Alliance President Ed Markowski. “The New Jersey bear hunt fight is ground zero. There are no two ways about it—and we are not letting this go without a fight.”
Sportsmen’s Alliance president and CEO Evan Heusinkveld explained, “Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to close public lands to bear hunting is bad news for everyone except for radical anti-hunting groups. It’s dangerously short-sighted as recent history has shown that without the hunt, dangerous conflicts between bears and people, pets, livestock and property increase dramatically. So while Governor Murphy fulfills his promise to animal rights groups, he’s putting New Jersey citizens and their property at risk. That’s why for more than 15 years, New Jersey’s wildlife experts have supported managed bear hunts to control bear numbers.”
NRA Board member Paul Babaz, President of SCI, said, “Safari Club has long supported New Jersey in its extremely successful efforts to manage bears with hunting. Governor Murphy’s directive to close state lands to black bear hunting was pure politics and should be overturned in favor of sound wildlife management. Safari Club, along with the other Plaintiffs, looks forward to proving in court that the governor’s decision was illegal.”
New Jersey Hunters Make a Tremendous Impact Current estimates peg New Jersey sportsmen’s contribution to wildlife conservation efforts in the United States at over $23 million every year—$7.66 million of which is through the Pittman-Robertson Fund. Additionally, state-level economic impact studies estimate New Jersey hunters, fishermen and trappers spend over $1.26 billion annually, supporting almost 17,000 jobs statewide, the majority of which are due to family-owned and -operated small businesses.
Governor’s Overreach Is Bad for Conservation Liberal-leaning states like New Jersey pose a risk to hunters nationwide because of the precedent it sets for animal rights extremists in other states to close legal hunting seasons on the state lands that hunters pay for unilaterally, despite they have no scientific facts to back up their claims. If allowed to stand, this could be the beginning of the end for America’s wildlife conservation model and the great successes it has enjoyed for over 100 years in maintaining healthy and balanced ecosystems in America.
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About The Author: Cody McLaughlin is a noted conservationist and conservative thought leader on public policy issues including hunting, fishing, gun rights, free-market tax and wage policy and the environment. He works as a GOP consultant for conservative political causes, managing clients’ digital communications and online presence and as a Trustee of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, helping to represent the state’s 1.2 million sportsmen in the political arena.