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“Christie Lies – Black Bears Die – Cancel The Hunt!”

Statehosue protest of Christie black bear hunt

Statehouse protest of Christie black bear hunt

[Update 3 – 12/7/10 – Bergen Record reports: N.J. Gov. Chris Christie open to cutting bear hunt shortMy guess is that all the phone calls, media coverage, and photos of dead bears are having an impact - keep up the pressure on the Goveror!]

Update 2: 12/5/10 – Star Ledger set up story: On eve of N.J. bear hunt, both sides of debate plead their cases

Update 1: 12/4/10 – here are Rutgers Professors Tavss Reports critiquing DEP F&W justification for the bear hunt – click on – more after I read them:

CONCLUSION

  • There was a reported surge in bear incidents in 2008 and 2009.
  • The cause of the reported surge in 2009 was investigated.
  • It was not caused by a surge in bear population.
  • It was not caused by a decrease in bears’ natural food supply.
  • It was caused by a combination of scientifically unacceptable practices:

1. multiple sources for collecting and interpreting the data in 2009 (as compared to 2007)

2. many duplicate records in 2009 (as compared to 2007)

3. frequent miscategorizations of type in 2009 (as compared to 2007)

4. many faxed police department reports in 2009 (as compared to 2007)

  • The collection and interpretation of data in 2009 were scientifically flawed.

When adjustments were made to correct these errors, linear regression analyses of the resulting data demonstrated that from 1999 to 2009 there was actually a statistically significant decrease in complaints, not an increase.

CONCLUSION

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council issued a report on “Comprehensive Black Bear (Ursus americanus) Management Policy”. That document defines the New Jersey Fish and Game Council’s policies and recommendations regarding the continued management of resident black bears in New Jersey. A primary objective of the Council policy is to use bear management approaches that will reduce human conflicts/complaints regarding black bears. The primary approaches being considered to meet this objective are (a) a hunt and (b) a non-violent approach (educating the public about bear’s propensity to eat garbage, bear-proofing garbage containers, enforcing ordinances regarding garbage, etc.). Data from three national parks, three local communities, five states (including New Jersey) and one Canadian province were studied to determine the effects of these two approaches on the reduction of human complaints/conflicts. The results demonstrate that at every site in which the hunting approach was evaluated no effect in reducing the human complaints/conflicts was observed while at every site in which the non-violent program was evaluated, the non-violent approach was demonstrated to be markedly effective in reducing human complaints/conflicts. It is particularly important to note that in the state of New Jersey the number of complaints has been statistically significantly declining over the last seven years, consistent with using the non-violent approach. It is recommended that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection consider revision of the proposed policy of the New Jersey Fish and Game Council so as to enhance the non-violent approach to managing New Jersey’s black bears, an approach that has already been proven to be successful in New Jersey and elsewhere, and concurrently terminate the hunting option, an approach that has been proven not to be effective.

“Christie Lies – Black Bears Die – Cancel the Hunt!

“No Blood for Votes – Cancel the Hunt!” were the chants echoing on the Statehouse steps this afternoon, as about 50 protestors demanded that Governor Christie block the black bear hunt scheduled to begin Monday morning.

According to a DEP press release I just received as I am writing this, an Appeals Court rejected attempts to block the hunt:

A state Appellate Division Court today dismissed a legal challenge to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP), clearing the way for a week-long bear hunt that will take place in Northwest New Jersey starting on Monday.

A two-judge panel rejected a request for an injunction made by the New Jersey Animal Protection League and the Bear Education and Resource Group to prevent the State’s first black bear hunt since 2005.

As further evidence of their pro-hunt bias, DEP seems almost to celebrate the Court’s decision, and goes beyond mere vindication to an abnoxious posture of gloating:

“The facts and science are clear,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “There are a growing number of black bears in New Jersey and a resultant increase in public complaints about bear and human encounters. This is clearly a public safety issue that requires responsible action by DEP and the Fish and Game Council.’’

But the facts and the science are not “clear”, and they never are. Human judgements always must reconcile scientific uncertainty to make decisions.

Regardless, even if they were, science can not be used to evade responsibility for making a deeply unpopular policy decision that has profound ethical implications and that fails to reflect democratic preferences.

What DEP Commissioner Martin fails to comprehend is that DEP is a public agency and the state’s wildlife resources legally are owned by the people of the state (if ownership is even a legitimate concept for wildlife). DEP merely stewards those resources as a public trust obligation. DEP is accountable to the public, not the hunters.

DEP, the Fish & Game Council, and the less than 1% of NJ residents that hunt, do not own the black bear population.

This is America - the public’s values and preferences must play a role in DEP’s wildlife management decisions.

In this case, the public strongly opposes the hunt, which is being driven by the pro-hunting faction that dominates the NJ Fish & Game Council.

The facts and the science are in dispute regarding everything from the actual black bear population, the effect of hunting on population, the trends in bear nuisance complaints, the actual threats to humans posed by bears, the effect of hunting on reducing bear nuisance complaints, whether hunting reduces risks to humans, the effectiveness of non-lethal alternatives, among other issues.

According to a Rutgers scientist, Dr. Edward Tavss, the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife justification for the hunt is scientifically flawed.  

But DEP arrogantly dismisses all these competing scientific and wildlife management policy views.

There also are profound ethical questions about the morality of what amouts to slaughtering bears to satisfy a recreational trophy hunting faction. (I was told that DEP F&W staff are giving the GPS locations of bears to hunters, based on tagged collars. What kind of sport is that?)  

There are public policy questions about public anti-hunting preferences and ethics that transcend science. Balancing the risks to communities in bear country is just one of these policy factors that involve judgement and human values, not solely science.

Should humans have expectations of total safety if they choose to build homes and live in bear habitat?

If human wastes (garbage) feed the bears and stimulate bear population growth, who is then responsible for human bear conflicts associated with growing bear and human populations increasingly located in bear habitat?

If hunters drive bears out of the woods into suburban areas, who is responsible?

Those kind of issues have not been seriously considered by DEP, because the decision process is driven by the pro-hunting faction that controls the Fish and Game Council.

The mere recent attempt to pass legislation to balance the composition of the F&G Council to put non-hunting public members on the Council triggered a huge and ugly political attack by organized hunting interests. Legislators are literally afraid of these people.

Those same hunting groups have politically endorsed Governor Christie, creating the appearance of a quid pro quo.

And just like Christie’s bullying pit bull political style, Anthony P. Mauro, the head of the pro-hunt NJ Outdoor Alliance, called environmental groups “eco-terrorists”. In the same style, here’s arrogant attack dog Governor Christie, ridiculing deeply felt beliefs:

One demonstrator, Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, appealed to Christie to use his gubernatorial power to stop the hunt.

Christie was unswayed. He called the group’s claims “laughable” at a news conference Friday and said the hunt was “environmentally, ecologically sound.”

The hunt is scheduled for Monday – groups are urging people to call Governor Christie (@ 609-292-6000) and ask him to kill the hunt.

More to follow – photos below.

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