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Daily Record

Hunters Dominate Game Council

I was stunned when I read NJ Fish and Game Council Chair Scott Ellis, in a recent Record article, state that "If you take the council as a whole, it's a pretty responsible group."

Responsible? If so then Nero was responsible, for both that Roman emperor and the Council have wielded power in the same abusive way: All for personal recreation, with no care for the citizens of the state.

This is no idle statement. When we look at what the Council has done to the wildlife and people of New Jersey we see 60 years of suffering, destruction, and devastation to the environment.

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council is an eleven member state board entrusted with the authority over all our wildlife. Through legislation enacted in the 1940's, the Council is directed to manage wildlife "...for their use and development for public recreation and food supply."

One hunting organization, the NJ Federation of Sportsmen, holds six of the eleven seats on the Council, therefore ensuring hunter domination over all wildlife policy. But it is worse than that. There are three farmers on the Council who also represent hunting interests. A recent Council chair and farmer representative owned a hunting preserve, and the aforementioned current chair, Mr. Ellis, who is also a farmer representative, voted for the black bear hunt this year stating that it is "...the council's duty to offer a recreational hunt."

All the seats on the Council have always been populated by hunters. The one exception is the current public member. He was put there following a major campaign that exposed the undemocratic nature of the Council. One seat is not enough. The damage the Council causes continues.

In it's effort to provide the maximum number of animals for hunters to kill,
the Council, in concert with the NJ Division of Fish and Game, engages in the clear-cutting of public forests.

While any child knows how important trees are to our environment, to the Council and Division trees are a detriment. Large forested areas provide little food for deer and other popular game species. When you remove trees you allow sunlight to touch the ground, which results in the creation of low level vegetation; the favorite food of deer. More food means more deer, which means more deer for hunters to kill. This last point is the motivation of the Division. The state agency that is supposed to protect wildlife profits from the sale of hunting licenses.

Morris County suffered the loss of 60 acres of preserved woods at the Berkshire Valley Wildlife Management Area in 1991. The reason for this was given in the Division's annual report for that year: "Among the species of wildlife to benefit from this habitat management operation are the white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock and wild turkey."

Did Morris County really need more deer? And knowing this, should we not stop blaming those animals, but instead focus on the Council - for it was they who lead to their creation.

125 acres of trees destroyed in South Jersey. 285 lost in Sussex County. These projects are but a taste of the environmental damage the Council has inflicted. There are plans on the Council's drawing board for the destruction of thousands more acres of land that we, as taxpayers, thought was being saved. 

Maximizing wildlife populations has been the overarching goal of both the Division and the Council, and they've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Each year hunters kill 1,000,000 wild animals in our state. Half of this number consists of rabbits and pheasants, with 50,000 of the birds coming from a state owned breeding farm. These poor creatures spend most of their lives in small cages and then they are dumped, in darkness and confusion, onto public lands where they will be killed the next day by hunters seeking 'sport'. That "canned hunting" such as this exists in our state is another disgrace added to the long list accumulated by the Council.

Whether you are an environmentalist appalled at the clear cutting of public land, or someone who cares for animals and is sickened by the legal abuse committed by the Council, or if you believe in good government and that one special interest should not hold tyranny over all, then we have a common goal: The NJ Fish and Game Council must be dramatically changed.

The time for this is at hand. A bill to alter the Council has been introduced into the NJ state senate. Please, contact your legislators and ask them to support S. 2603. 

By changing the Council, by putting co-existence with wildlife and protection of the environment above recreation killing, we begin to create a greater New Jersey, one that we can be proud of to pass on to our children.