New Jersey bear hunters will have to look elsewhere for opportunities in 2021, as there will not be a bear hunt this year. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette will not approve a black bear management plan.
“On June 21, 2021, New Jersey’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP) expired, and as such, there is no black bear hunt in 2021,” said the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife in a statement. “In accordance with the Supreme Court ruling on September 27, 2007, no black bear hunt may occur without a properly-promulgated CBBMP proposed by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council and approved by the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.”
But insiders aren’t chalking this up to a bureaucratic mix-up. “This is all politics,” said Fish and Game Council member Phil Brodhecker to the New Jersey Herald. According to Brodhecker, the commissioner hasn’t even read the updated plan.
Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy is heading into an election year, and stopping bear hunting is one of his campaign’s issues. Previously Murphy closed all state-owned lands to bear hunting, although the Fish and Game Council still has the final say on setting hunting seasons based on the management plans.
By refusing to sign off on the bear management plan, the Fish and Game Council can’t set a hunting season for bear starting in 2021. Each management plan is put in place for five years, giving the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and Fish and Game Council time to evaluate bear populations in order to draft future management plans.
According to Brodhecker, the updated and council-approved plan has been on the commissioner’s desk since March. The commissioner is appointed by the governor, and is a political position.
Prominent Republican Sen. Steve Oroho along with Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths called it “a divisive political play,” and that it would increase the likelihood of dangerous human encounters with bear.
“Throughout this pandemic, Governor Murphy has preached about following the science, yet in this instance, he is blindly obeying his version of political science while potentially jeopardizing the public safety of New Jerseyans,” said Oroho. “We don’t want to go back to not managing the bear population properly.”
“This is a self-serving attempt to placate extremists in an election year while increasing the likelihood of a dangerous encounter with a bear,” said Space. “Once again, Murphy is more concerned about politics. Hunts effectively controlled the bear population since 2010, and reports of nuisance and damage were cut in half during that time.”
“There is nothing humane about bears starving in the wild. It is a recipe for disaster that can be mitigated with responsible hunting controls,”added Wirths.