Hunting groups have joined together to threaten a lawsuit against New Jersey's governor over his black bear hunting ban on state-owned lands.
Three major outdoor sportsmen's groups are joining forces to challenge New Jersey's governor over his bear hunting ban. Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order bans black bear hunting on state-owned or public lands.
The Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance and Safari Club International intend to file a lawsuit in New Jersey state court challenges the governor's order. The order closes approximately 700,000 acres of public land to resident and non-resident hunters.
The bear hunt ban is seen by outdoorsmen as a purely political decision. But the state's bear hunt has the backing of biologists and wildlife experts. Many also see the decision as especially egregious in that it pinpoints public land, which hunters have a huge part in sustaining.
"New Jersey's 1.2 million sportsmen are the ones who pay for those lands through all the money that they spend on gear, licenses and permits every year," said NJOA trustee Cody McLaughlin. "And we just think it's only right that they should be able to pursue their sports on the lands that they pay for."
Animal rights advocates want more
While animal rights advocates celebrate the governor's decision, they also say it doesn't go far enough. They want to see officials completely ban bear hunting in the state. The activists declare the black bear population is unsustainable, but that position doesn't use scientific evidence. Their real objection is that they simply don't like hunting.
"Stopping the hunt on state lands does not stop the hunt," said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "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."
Hunters and other outdoorsmen disagree
"We are shocked and distressed that the governor would take such an action," said McLaughlin. "Those who have read the countless science on this and other issues of hunting know, it is the best tool in the toolbox for wildlife management of any species--including bears--and this ban flies in the face of a mountain of research urging the contrary."
The governor's ban does not cover private lands. New Jersey's black bear season is slated to begin Oct. 8. It's highly unlikely the lawsuit will come to any settlement before the October season opener. So bear hunters will have to hunt on county land or private property, rather than a wildlife management area.