Federal Judge Lifts Prohibition on Bear Hunting
at the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area
United States District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton today lifted the federal
court order prohibiting hunting for bears at the Delaware Gap National Recreation
Area. The Order issued Friday December 5, 2003, was in response to a federal
suit filed by Fund for Animals claiming that the Director of the Park Service
and the Secretary of the Interior had violated the National Park Service Organic
Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA. Fund for Animals also alleged
that the hunt would cause irreparable harm to their members and was against the
public interest. The New Jersey Fish and Game Council sought and was granted
intervenor status to defend the Bear hunting season which was part of the 2003
Game Code adopted by the Council.
Ruling against the Fund for Animals in all counts, Judge Walton found that the
Fund had failed to establish any violations of the statutes by the Park Service
or the Secretary.
The Court also failed to find that the plaintiffs would suffer any irreparable
harm. Rather Judge Walton stated that “it is also significant that the
limited six-day hunt is not designed to eradicate or even significantly reduce
the black bear population. As defendants note, "[c]ontrary to [p]laintiffs'
alarmist predictions, the black bear population at the [Recreation Area] is not
going to be decimated, or even significantly impacted, by this bear hunt." .
. . Thus, "plaintiffs' aesthetic, spiritual, and cultural interests
in observing, photographing, studying, and appreciating bears in the Recreation
Area . . .
[will not be irreparably injured]"
The court was also concerned as to the potential harm to others if the
hunt was not allowed to proceed. The decision noted that in 2002, the New
of Environmental Protection ("DEP") received over fourteen hundred
complaints on bears, compared to 285 complaints received in 1995. And that
in June 20, 2003, a two-year old boy was swatted on the head by a black bear
he sat on the front porch of his home. The opinion recognized that hunters
were being already being deprived of their opportunity to hunt these bears
hibernation has already begun.
Ultimately the court concluded that given the State of New Jersey's research
on this issue “the public interest favors permitting the State of New
Jersey to conduct its limited hunt in order to manage its wildlife resources
promote a healthy and safe habitat for the residents who live in the vicinity
of the Recreation Area as well as for the black bears.”