DEP Commissioner plans second bear-hunt appeal

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    TRENTON-"I regret that the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey has accepted the view that the Fish & Game Council is not subject to oversight or review, even when the Council's decisions on the annual game code affect wildlife policies beyond recreational hunting," said DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell on Tuesday. "Given the implications of this policy for wildlife management and government accountability, the Attorney General will petition the Supreme Court on behalf of the DEP for a stay of this decision and for review on the merits," the commissioner said earlier this week. "In the meantime, I am instructing the Division of Fish and Wildlife to take steps to ensure that the Department is in a position to comply with the court's mandate if these steps are unavailing. I also am committed to strengthen the Department's relationship with the Council and to advance the interests of New Jersey's hunters and anglers." Earlier on Tuesday, the New Jersey Appellate Court ruled that bear hunting permits would be issued, clearing the way for the start of the upcoming, Dec. 6-11, bear season. The commissioner's action further blocks that hunt. The court ruled that Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell doesn't have authority to veto state Fish and Game Council decisions authorizing hunting seasons.  The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation's Sportsmen's Legal Defense Fund (SLDF) and other sportsmen brought a lawsuit challenging the attempt to block the 2004 black bear hunt. The plaintiffs include three individuals who applied for the bear hunt: Gerald McCusker, Phillipsburg, Anthony Cali, Cedarsgrove and Edward O'Sullivan, Sussex. The suit was filed Oct. 14 in response to Campbell's order that the state not release 2004 bear hunt permit applications and to not issue permits for the hunt.  Campbell argued he had the authority to overrule hunting seasons authorized by the Fish and Game Council.  On Oct. 27, Appellate Court Judge Jane Grall ordered the DEP to accept bear permit applications for the 2004 hunt. "The ruling establishes that the rules of the Fish and Game Council are not to be subverted by political appointees with a bone to pick with hunting," said U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance President Bud Pidgeon.  "We are happy that the system has worked for sportsmen and for the best interests of New Jersey's wildlife." Wildlife biologists say a limited hunt is necessary to control the burgeoning bear population in the state.