Wildlife Management – Due For Change

By Janet Piszar

In NJ, a war is raging. The adversaries are the activists for modernized wildlife management vs. traditional hunters. The unsuspecting majority is made to believe that hunting, although dreadful, is necessary for wildlife management.

The ideology that no one may own wildlife originated in ancient Roman law and was adopted by the British Empire via the Magna Carta. It carried over to the United States and became the antecedent of our constitution.  Public Trust Doctrines (PTD) assert that natural resources, such as oceans, rivers, wildlife, etc., are publicly owned and held in trust for all. It avows that no sovereign—  government — can own public assets.

In defiance of that mandate, wildlife is in fact controlled by a small and shrinking special interest group—hunters. The archaic statute, NJSA 13:1B-24 dictates that the trustees, a Fish and Game Council, have eleven members. Six are hunters, nominated by the NJ Sportsman’s Federation. Three are farmers— also hunters— nominated by the Agricultural Convention. Of the remaining two one is the chair of the Endangered and Non-Game Species Committee and the other one is someone knowledgeable about land use. Clearly, the membership is biased since it is without broad, democratic representation.

NJ statutes countermand the PTD. In The Outdoor Heritage of New Jersey, 1937, by George C. Warren, Jr. and H. J. Burlington, the authors describes the Fish and Game Commission: “The agency was to be non-political with a policy of non-interference.”  They clarify that the commissioners were, men of the great outdoors, sportsmen for the most part…”

Doe Day, The Antlerless Deer Controversy in New Jersey, was published in 1963 by Dr. Paul Tillett, Rutgers professor, attorney and hunter. Marion Clawson, Director of Land Use and Management wrote in her Foreword to that book, “Wildlife management in most states is under the political control of sportsmen and to some extent, of private landowners on whose lands much of the hunting takes place. These interest groups have taken over this function in large part, because of the general indifference of the public.”

In the early 1980s, there were approximately 200,000 hunters in NJ. NJ’s 2008 application for  Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration funds shows 79,539 hunting license holders including hunters from outside NJ. According to the US Dept. of Agriculture’s NJ Census, there were approximately 3,000,000  agricultural acres in the mid 1870s and 894,426 in 1987.  The most recent 2007 census shows less than a third, or 733,450 remaining acres. A total of 15,936 farm operators own 10,327 farms.

Today the two controlling factions, hunters and farmers, represent less than  2% of the state’s population  but promulgate wildlife  policy with total disregard to the views of the remaining 98%.

Hunters enjoy killing and need to purchase licenses for their recreation. Game animals are an economic engine for the state. Therefore, management goals are to maintain surplus inventories of game species. The states’ eligibility for Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration is largely calculated by the number of license purchasers a state can attract. Thus, there is great attention paid to  hunter success and satisfaction.

What is wrong with hunter control of wildlife? The Division of Fish & Wildlife’s (DFW) deer harvest reports for 2008, 2009, 2010 reveal that 59% of deer management zones were managed for population increase/stabilization. Deer thrive on early succession food. NJ’s Bureau of Land Management optimizes habitat in Wildlife Management Areas. Mowing, controlled burning, planting, tilling,  artificially provide vast tender vegetation for deer, turkeys and other game species. Weight, health and proliferation are boosted.

The NJ Audubon Society’s “Forest Health and Ecological Integrity” policy paper was published in March 2005. It cites, “Wildlife management to facilitate hunting opportunities has been a key contributor to deer over population.”

We see how the model for wildlife control  is historically rooted.  However, it is irrefutable that Clawson’s statement of “general indifference of the public” is no longer accurate. Evolved humane-minded individuals and organizations strive for modernization that no longer focuses on recreational killing. Non-consumptive stakeholders have employed opposition through: lawsuits, petitions to the courts, protests and demonstrations, education to inspire others, lobbying, and even deliberately provoking arrests via civil disobedience.

Deer are not managed for public benefit. NJ Open Public Records Request No. 111736 reveals that in Deer Management Zones managed for  increase, no research was conducted to learn of negative consequences, such as vehicle-deer collisions. This exposes a grievous disregard for  public safety.

Many residents are aggravated by deer that forage on landscape, emerge on roadways or leave feces in yards, but their anger must be redirected to those responsible: the DFW and its hunter-centric management for recreational hunting and revenue.

I conclude with the sentiments of those far wiser than I:

The Public Trust Doctrine, Richard A. Epstein, “Expectations must be deemed to change as time, circumstances and public attitudes change, and expectations which might have been reasonable at one time can cease to be reasonable.”

And, with Clawson’s acknowledgement,  “….the old sportsman-association approach may be increasingly outmoded; new scientific understanding offers the possibility of vastly better resource management than we have experienced in the past.”

PUBLIC TRUST Wildlife Management commands broad public representation for equitable and lawful jurisdiction in the creation of wildlife policy. We aim for state wildlife management that is reflective of democracy, evolved public opinion and values, bona fide science, and the public’s full trust.

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Janet Piszar is Founder and President of PUBLIC TRUST Wildlife Management, P.O. Box 646 Chatham, NJ 07928, Fax (973) 467-2189, PublicTrustWildlifeManagement@verizon.net


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561