Governor closes state lands to bear hunting
Hunt still possible on county, municipal and private lands

Photo by Emily Fisher

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy on Monday signed an Executive Order directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to close all public lands under the Department’s jurisdiction to bear hunting for the 2018 season, according to the governor's official website.
The ban includes all State forests, State parks, State recreation areas, State historic sites, State Wildlife Management Areas and State natural areas.
“Today, I am fulfilling my commitment to stop the bear hunt to the greatest extent of my authority by ordering the Department of Environmental Protection to prevent bear hunting on all public lands under the DEP’s jurisdiction during the 2018 season,” Murphy said. “I am also calling on the Legislature to take action on this critical issue. My first concern has always been public safety and before we authorize another hunt, we should review all non-lethal options.”
Prior to this action, Governor Murphy directed the Department of Environmental Protection to review the available science and consult with the New Jersey Fish and Game Council to determine if the state should pursue changes to the regulations authorizing the bear hunt. The implementation of this executive order represents the fullest extent of the Governor’s legal power to unilaterally limit the bear hunt.
The New Jersey Fish and Game Council authorized bear hunts through 2021 under its regulatory authority. Bear hunting this year can go forward on county parkland, water company land, private land, land owned by non-profits and municipal land.
The Council is independent from the Office of the Governor and the Department of Environmental Protection and is primarily composed of sportsmen and farmers. The Council has the sole authority to authorize a bear hunting season in New Jersey. Pursuant to a New Jersey Supreme Court decision in 2005 and other related court decisions, if the Council recommends a bear hunt and properly adopts regulations implementing a hunt, the Governor does not have the ability to unilaterally cancel it. In order for the hunt to be stopped, either the Legislature must act or the Council must adopt new regulations that do not include provisions for the hunt. The Council has authorized and held a bear hunt for the past eight years.