By Brett Stayton, Mid-Atlantic States Coordinator
On September 9, Catherine McCabe, the Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an Administrative Order to prohibit the hunting of black bears on all state lands under DEP’s jurisdiction, including state Wildlife Management Areas (WMA).
These WMAs are paid for by New Jersey’s sportsmen and women through the “user-pays, public-benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, which has generated more than $632 million for fish and wildlife conservation in the state.
This administrative directive follows an executive order issued by Governor Phil Murphy on August 20. One of his campaign promises was to ban the bear hunt to the fullest extent of his legal authority. Several members of the New Jersey Angling and Hunting Conservation Caucus have already spoken out against the executive order that has now successfully banned bear hunting on more than 700,000 acres of previously accessible public hunting grounds. According to the DEP, about 40 percent of bears harvested in the state since 2010 were on public lands that are now off limits.
This executive order contradicts the objective and science-based evidence that wildlife management decisions in our country are supposed to be predicated on. Regulated hunting is a proven tool for managing wildlife populations while simultaneously providing financial support for the conservation of both game and non-game species through the American System of Conservation Funding.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with members of the New Jersey Caucus to protect and advance hunting access and opportunities in the Garden State, and to ensure that the management authority of New Jersey’s bear population is left to dedicated wildlife professionals who use the best available science to develop policies.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?