Why it Matters: Fish and wildlife management decisions in New Jersey must be left to the Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council. Instead, black bears in the Garden State have found themselves at the center of political controversy. For the past several years, the state’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan (CBBMP) – a necessary instrument for outlining the many science-based elements that construct a hunting season – has lapsed at the Governor’s order. Since then, human-wildlife conflict reports involving black bears have more than doubled, leading to the Governor’s recent decision to reauthorize the CBBMP. Overall, bear hunting is an effective and resourceful wildlife management practice, which is why states across the nation rely on hunting to control the bear population and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
- On Tuesday, December 6, the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Appellate Division dissolved a temporary stay that was halting the return of the state’s December black bear season after anti-sportsmen’s groups filed suit to prevent the hunt.
- In November, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy invoked an emergency rulemaking to enact a Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy which was then approved by the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council.
- The Governor then signed Executive Order No. 310 which reinstated the black bear hunting season, only to have anti-sportsmen’s organizations file suit and invoke an interim stay which was overturned by the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Appellate Division.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) welcomes this news, and has long supported the bear hunt as an essential wildlife management tool in the Garden State.
Bear hunting in New Jersey is back for 2023, following the dissolution of a temporary stay issued by the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Appellate Division. On November 15, an emergency rulemaking was held to reauthorize the black bear season, after which a new Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP) was swiftly approved by the state’s Fish and Game Council. Governor Phil Murphy then signed Executive Order No. 310 which reinstated the black bear hunting season until a suit was brought and ultimately an emergency stay was issued. This stay temporarily ceased the black bear season until last Tuesday, December 6, when the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Appellate Division dissolved the stay, thereby bringing about the black bear hunt.
However, it’s important to realize that the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy is only valid for 60 days since it was issued through emergency rule procedures. Per the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife: “To make the changes permanent, the Governor’s Office and the Council filed a concurrent proposal which will appear in the NJ Register on December 19, 2022. This will begin a 30-day public comment period where the public may submit written comments.” A subsequent public hearing will then be scheduled in January.
As was previously reported, black bear hunting has a storied past in New Jersey. What’s clear though, and recognized by Governor Murphy, is that “New Jersey’s black bear population is growing significantly, and nonlethal bear management strategies alone are not enough to mitigate this trend.” The Court acknowledged this in its ruling, stating that “the public interest advanced by respondents is grounded in the protection of the public from the growing bear population and commensurate damage and nuisance incidents.”
The story of the New Jersey black bear season is far from over. There will no doubt be numerous subsequent lawsuits down the road, but one thing at this point is clear – the black bear season has returned for this year. CSF will be weighing in through the public comment process and will provide updates as they are made available.