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They Want to Shoot Bears?

Hunters support bear hunt

Hunters support bear hunt

[Update 7/21/10 – DEP Commisioner Martin approves hunt – click on to read story. Brian Murray of the Star Ledger seems to disregard the public as much as Bob Martin, when he casually writes:

Martin’s approval was considered somewhat of a formality because he had already signaled his support for the plan back in March,

If Martin’s approval was “somewhat a formality“, I guess that makes the public hearings and thousands of public comments in opposition a complete sham.

The relationship between the Council and the powers of the DEP Commissioner went to the Supreme Court on this very issue. The  Court vested the final policy decision with the DEP Commissioner and not the appointed Council for a reason.

Do we have a democracy or not?. – end update]

DEP held a pubic hearing tonight to take public comment on regulations to authorize a bear hunt.

But, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin – with no training or experience, after less than 3 months on the job, and before any public hearings were held – already approved a controversial bear hunt for this year weeks ago (see DEP press release and links to bear management plan and procedure for submitting written comments).

Martin’s decision was a slap in the face to thousands of New Jersey residents who have long vehemently opposed the bear hunt.

And in this particular case of approving a DEP management plan (which is not like a regulatory decision on the science of a drinking water standard, where science plays a far more significant role in decision-making), Martin is making a highly discretionary public policy choice. Martin’s insistence of basing DEP decisions on “science” and “data” is just not appropriate.

The management of the public’s wildlife resources must consider non-scientific value laden factors (what scientist Alvin Weinberg famously referred to as “trans-science” in his classical article), including the preferences of the public, the availability of alternative non-lethal management measures, and fundamental ethics.

Martin hides behind pseudo-science to mask these values and political choices that he has made -  and arrogantly made before even listening to the public.

I spoke to oppose the hunt basically on ethical grounds. Black bears are a human like, sentient species that it is just flat out wrong to kill for recreational purposes (as opposed to subsistence hunting).

Seeing a bear in the wild is an incredibly moving, special experience. More NJ residents would benefit from this and there are many ways to safely eco-exist with bears. I am glad to have experienced that in NJ along the AT. Bears are a primal indicator of the wild that must be preserved.

There is also much evidence that the cause of the problem is human development and encroachment on bear habitat. It is not the bear population but human encroachment that is the cause of the problems of alleged bear/human conflicts.

The DEP professional staff that developed the plan, the Fish and Game Council that approved the plan, and the management plan itself are strongly biased in favor or a recreational hunt to serve the narrow interests of the politically organized and powerful hunters lobby.

DEP scientists also have a conflict of interest because hunters license fees fund their salaries and management programs.

Under these conditions, the public interests warrants non-lethal management measures.

To hoist the Commissioner on his own petard, I noted procedural deficiencies in the proposal, including it’s failure to comply with the requirements of Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2.

Although I have strongly opposed that Order, it is legally binding on DEP. Specifically, under that order DEP is required to

Engage in the “advance notice of rules” by soliciting the advice and views of knowledgeable persons from outside of New Jersey State government, including the private sector and academia, in advance of any rulemaking to provide valuable insights on the proposed rules, and to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.

Governor Christie’s objective in issuing EO#2 was to prevent bad regulatory decisions, exactly like the regulatory amendment to approve the bear hunt. DEP failed to comply with the requirements of EO #2.

As a result of DEP’s failure to comply with this advanced  notice requirement, DEP has not been able to consider “valuable public insights” on non-lethal wildlife management strategies and as a result, proposed an “unworkable and ill advised rule”.

Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2 also requires, among other things, that DEP:

Employ the use of cost/benefit analyses, as well as scientific and economic research from other jurisdictions, including but not limited to the federal government when conducting an economic impact analysis on a proposed rule.

DEP simply failed to comply with this requirement.There is no CBA of the proposed regulatory amendment to adopt a management plan approving the hunt.

As a result, the public was denied an opportunity to comment on important economic issues, including the significant positive external benefits of bear populations, the hedonistic and existence values of bear populations, and the negative external costs of hunting, including safety risks, conflicting recreational uses of state lands, and nuisance dis-amenities.

DEP must withdraw this proposal because it does not comply with EO #2 requirements.

Hopefully, after economic analysis and listening to the non-hunting public,. Martin will change his mind (a decision which he couldn’t have thought about very deeply anyway)

And why wasn’t the public hearing held in bear country? The Trenton hearing location shut out thousands of voices.

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