New Jersey Supreme Court Decision Effectively Ends Bear Hunt, But Still Activists Unhappy

In February the New Jersey Supreme Court made a ruling about the powers of different wildlife agencies in that state that effectively ended any possibility of a bear hunt. But animal rights activists found little else to celebrate in the decision.

New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council had approved and schedule a bear hunt that was to take place the week of December 6, 2004. They scheduled the bear hunt despite the fact that the Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection opposed the hunt, maintaining that the DEP Commissioner’s approval was not necessary to hold the hunt.

In February the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled, in fact, that the DEP commissioner had final authority over a black bear hunt derived from his general statutory power to approve or disapprove comprehensive statewide policies that affect the black bear population, and statutory language that made it clear the Fish and Game Council’s policies were “subject to the approval of the [DEP] commissioner.”

Since the DEP commissioner has long been opposed to a black bear hunt, the hunt was canceled and is unlikely to return anytime soon.

But other than the black bear hunt, this ruling simply won’t change anything else. As longtime New Jersey anti-hunting activist Stuart Chaifetz noted in a letter sent out under the auspices of the Animal Protection PAC (emphasis added),

In order for the Commissioner to veto the Council, he or she needs to be in disagreement with the Council’s policy. This happened with the bear hunt because we made [former New Jersey Governor Jim] McGreevey’s life hell, and there was no way he wanted to go through that again (kudos to all of you who never relented in your activism, whether it was by calling, writing, or disrupting the former Gov’s events). The catch is that, save for the bear issue, [DEP Commissioner Bradley] Campbell isn’t in conflict with the Council over any other species. In fact, at the hearing for the Sunday bowhunting bill, Campbell sent a letter stating he was in favor of the damn thing.

. . .

While we rejoice that the Council has suffered another unprecedented blow (as they did when we set the first non-hunter on the Council 2000) there are still years of brutality ahead. Now, more than ever, we need to continue our growth as a political force so that we may one day be able to wield the power the Supreme Court has given us today.

The full text of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision can be read here(PDF file).


U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance v. N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. New Jersey Supreme Court, Decided February 28, 2005.

Supreme Court Ruling – Another Victory Against the Hunters. Stuart Chaifetz, E-mail, February 28, 2005.

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