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Governor Murphy's executive order: A step in the right direction, but there's more to do

New Jersey Black Bear Coalition stands ready to work with Murphy administration to fulfill his commitment

Animal Protection League of New Jersey, Bear Group, League of Humane Voters of New Jersey, Sierra Club

Contact: Dante DiPirro, Esq., 609.429.0779

(TRENTON)  Acknowledging that Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order banning bear hunting on state lands is a first step in the right direction, New Jersey Black Bear Coalition members agree that substantially more action is needed to fulfil the governor’s commitment to a statewide moratorium on the controversial hunt.

Despite the order, the hunt is set to begin the second week of October on federal, county, municipal, and private lands in the northern portion of the state, where a considerable amount of bear hunting already occurs. Hunters who previously pursued bears on state lands will have plenty of time to relocate bait stations to non-state properties.

Veteran environmental attorneys, including former Senior Deputy Attorney General in Charge of Litigation, Assistant State Environmental Prosecutor and Deputy Attorney General on New Jersey environmental matters Dante DiPirro, strongly disagree.   

“The Courts have recognized that the governor and commissioner have the authority to set wildlife policy through the adoption of a species comprehensive management plan,” said DiPirro. “The new Governor should use this authority to void the ill-conceived comprehensive bear management adopted by the previous administration, and set his own new policy that stops the bear hunt on all lands."

"The governor has the authority to cancel the bear policy. The 2005 Supreme Court decision mentioned in the governor's August 20 press release does not restrict the governor; nor does it apply to a new commissioner who had nothing to do with the previous administration's bear policy,” said the Animal Protection League of New Jersey lead attorney Doris Lin.

Brian Hackett, New Jersey state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Although this is a step in the right direction, this executive order does not go far enough. We urge Governor Murphy to heed the wishes of his constituents and keep his campaign promise to end the statewide bear hunt. New Jersey’s beloved bears are neither ornaments nor rugs."

 “Stopping the hunt on state lands does not stop the hunt; it only changes where the bears get killed. The hunt will continue on other public lands, including county parks, water company lands, and private lands. We still need Governor Murphy to keep his commitment to ban the bear hunt completely. We believe that he has the legal tools to do so and that he must protect New Jersey’s bear populations by stopping the hunt altogether,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “After eight years of Christie’s open season on bears, at least Governor Murphy is trying to deal with the hunt.”

League of Humane Voters’ Jay Lassiter expressed dismay at the ban’s limited scope. “His base is these voters, and he can’t let them down.”

“Pending Bear Smart legislation known as Pedals’ Law has broad public support,” said Angi Metler, director of Animal Protection League. "The legislation would restrict baiting in bear habitat and, as is done in Western states and Alaska, require the use of bear-resistant bins in conflict areas. Senate President Stephen Sweeney has taken no action to move the bill. Our coalition will continue to engage our supporters and advocates to move this important public safety legislation.”

“A big part of the problem,” said Susan Russell, Animal Protection League wildlife policy director, “is that unlike previous administrations that stopped the bear hunt, the DEP deputy attorneys general have long represented the interests of the Fish and Game Council – not the governor, and certainly not the public. It’s the tail wagging the dog, and perhaps an entrenched bureaucracy taking advantage of a new governor.”

 
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