12 August 2005

Bradley M. Campbell,Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
401 East State Street
7th Floor, East Wing
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Commissioner Campbell:

Friends of Animals, a national animal advocacy organization with approximately 17,000 New Jersey members, strongly urges the Department of Environmental Protection to forgo the second bear hunt that the New Jersey Fish and Game Council has approved, and to let waste management initiatives work.

We appreciate your effort in West Milford, which received a $200,000 Clean Communities grant from the state to purchase the heavy-duty cans with screw-on lids. But the cans won’t be distributed until autumn — and only to residents in six communities. [“Bear-proof garbage cans to be tested in West Milford,” New Jersey Record (18 June).]

To determine the effectiveness of bear-proof cans, your department has made “control communities” of the northern section of Upper Greenwood Lake, West Milford Lake, Lindy’s Lake, High Crest Lake and Hi Lo Acres. The department could confirm the effectiveness of these cans by letting them work everywhere. The $200,000 grant should be implemented in conjunction with the educational and prevention initiatives—including a strong
emphasis on proper disposal methods at food outlets, parks, and construction sites, anchored by diligent enforcement—in all affected counties.

You have said: “We all need to play a part in reducing the risk of bear encounters. The place that effort should start is at the trash can.”

We agree.

We also laud the all-volunteer initiative the Bear Education and Resource group recently undertook in Hardyston Township in Sussex County. We believe that these initiatives ought to have a chance to work.

Some of these volunteers are young scouts. Please do not teach them that what adults do is get quickly frustrated with good work, throw our hands up, and resort to violence. Please do not teach them that New Jersey kills what it claims to legally protect. Please do not teach them to disrespect the other native beings that make our region of the country such a wondrous place to grow up and to call home.

It does not make sense to shift from the wisdom of using non-violent
means—means which you rightly supported last year all the way to the state Supreme Court—to throwing up hands and taking up arms.

In all of New Jersey’s recorded history, not one human being has been killed or seriously injured by a black bear. Black bears have every interest in avoiding humans, provided humans do not lure them unnecessarily.

Yes, there have been those in Bear Country saying that the authorities are just not doing enough. Wiping out bears might be “doing” something, but it’s not the enlightened thing. Your department has very good recommendations with respect to correct waste bins, bin storage and cleaning practices, bird feeders, air horns, and the proper conduct when encountering a bear. These are effective and appropriate responses when bears become overly interested in us.

In summary, sound waste management, not hunting, will best serve New Jersey and its visitors. And teaching a sound environmental ethic, one that fosters respect and appreciation for our state’s black bears, benefits us all.

Very truly yours,

Friends of Animals