TRENTON – Several bills centered on hunting, including two controversial proposed measures, were released by the state Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Monday.
The two most controversial bills, both passed by a slim 3-2 margin, centered on where and how hunting should be allowed in New Jersey, particularly on Sunday.
One of the Senate bills (S1683) released authorizes Sunday bow hunting on federal military installations.
“Bow hunting is inherently cruel and has a high injury rate. We don’t know if the animals never recover, or continue to linger, maimed,” said Doris Lin, the director of legal affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. “Why are we expanding hunting opportunities when the number of hunters is going down? There is no reason for the Legislature to pander to this ever-shrinking special interest group.”
“We find that on our federal facilities in the state there is a need to depopulate the deer,” said Edward Markowski, vice president of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance. “Allowing the feds the opportunity to hunt on Sunday will increase their ability to manage their wildlife populations on these preserves, which is outside of the purview of the [state] Division of Fish and Wildlife.”
The other controversial bill involving hunting that was released (S699) authorizes the hunting of game animals every day of the week during hunting season, including Sunday.
Markowski spoke again in favor of the bill, stating that it would also help control New Jersey’s deer population.
“We can’t support this bill, because there are too many people in New Jersey that rely on Sundays to go and participate in all sorts of other open space activities,” countered Emile DeVito of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, whose organization supports Sunday bow hunting. “I think this would really limit the general public’s use of our open spaces at all levels. This would mean a lot of days when people would think twice about wanting to go and enjoy their non-hunting activities.”
“These bills as a package come from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Rifle Association (NRA),” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, a national environmental advocacy organization. “The Sierra Club runs 200 hikes a year, and we deliberately run our hikes on Sundays to avoid conflicts and problems. It’s about who gets to enjoy the woods. There should be at least one day when people can go in the woods without having to be concerned about hunting, or about having to worry about the sound of hunting encroaching on their enjoyment of nature.”
Senators Bob Smith (D-17), Sam Thompson (R-12) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), sitting in for committee member Richard Codey (D-27), voted in favor of releasing both S1683 and S699, while Senators Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-16) and Linda Greenstein (D-14) voted against releasing the bills.