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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Hunters, Trappers, Anglers Up In Arms Over ‘Devastating’ Bills

By Susan Avedissian

TRENTON — Hunters and anglers across the state are up in arms over a proposal in the legislature they say will stack the state Fish and Game Council with anti-hunting and anti-fishing activists.
The proposal, they say, would make a profound shift in state law with devastating impact on hunters, trappers and fresh water anglers and the businesses that they support.
Assembly Bill A-3275 was released from the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on June 14. Along with its companion Senate bill, S-2041, it would change the composition of the council to seven members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, without regard to geographic representation.
In addition to changing the composition of the Council, the bills substitute “wildlife” for existing references to “game” in state codes, and eliminate any reference to the use and development of fish and game resources for public recreation and food supply.
“Anywhere where the word ‘game’ appears it is replaced with ‘wildlife.’ Why the change?” said New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Chairman Anthony Mauro. “I’m not an attorney, but something that is ‘game’ can be hunted; something that is ‘wildlife,’ cannot.”
“It’s a sneaky way of getting rid of hunting, fishing and trapping,” he said.
The bills, according to the Alliance, a non-profit organization of hunters, anglers and trappers, would also change game conservation in New Jersey by focusing on “expensive and unproven non-lethal alternatives” of wildlife management.
“Animal rights activists testifying in support of A-3275 derided hunting as a ‘15th-century’ means to wildlife management,” according to an Alliance press release, “and proclaimed the bill, which relies heavily on non-lethal alternatives, as legislation for 21st century wildlife management.”
Currently, the Fish and Game Council consists of 11 members who are chosen from those with knowledge of and interest in the conservation of fish and game, as follows: three farmers recommended by the state agricultural convention to the governor for appointment; six sportsmen, recommended by the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs to the governor for appointment; one public member knowledgeable in land use management and soil conservation practices; and the chairperson of the Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee.
The present farmer and sportsmen appointments are chosen with regard to geographic considerations: one farmer representative and two sportsmen representatives chosen from the northern, central and southern regions of the state.
Mauro said the changes in composition and in how appointments would be made makes them more political and would permit the council to be stacked with those with an anti-hunting bias.
Mauro said his membership and other outdoor recreational associations in New Jersey are still analyzing the bills for their full effect; his membership has serious concerns about the negative impact on hunters, trappers and freshwater fishermen and women, and the businesses they support.
He also points to the track record of the bills’ sponsors, Assemblyman Michael J. Panter (D-12th) and Senator Ellen Karcher (D-12th), as leaning heavily toward animal rights causes.
Voting “yes” on A3275’s release from the Assembly committee were: John F. McKeon (D-27th), chairman, Charles T. Epps, Jr. (D-31st), Robert M. Gordon (D-38th), vice chairman, Louis M. Manzo (D-31st), and Panter.
Voting “no” were Larry Chatzidakis (R-8th) and John E. Rooney (R-39th).
“Do I think the purpose is to get animal activists on it (the council)? Yes I do. Because it’s also changing the statute which confines the people who would be on the Fish and Game Council to consider only contraceptive means,” he said.
Contact Avedissian at (609) 886-8600 Ext 27 or at: savedissian@cmcherald.com.

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