Your Help is Needed to Defeat a Pair of Ill-Advised Bills in the New Jersey Legislature
Dear Humanitarian in New Jersey,
S1848, introduced by the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, Senator Bob Smith (D-17), and Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11), would expand the killing of deer on forest stewardship and commercial logging lands as a way to “control” deer populations.
S1085, also introduced by Senator Smith, would allow commercial logging of state forests, primarily for timber and to increase populations of “game” birds. As noted by forty New Jersey forest scientists, the logging bill will “grow the deer herd even more,” exacerbating any overpopulation issues that S1848 was supposedly introduced to address.
Both bills would lead to increased lethal control of deer by methods more commonly associated with poaching than lawful deer hunting or responsible wildlife management. S1848 would permit the killing of deer directly over bait, at any time of day or night, “with any weapon,” the use of cars or trucks, and jacklighting, or stunning deer with strong lights.
The bills promote ecologically damaging practices, as well. In multiple studies, baiting deer has been shown to alter natural tree species composition and retard forest regeneration by concentrating deer in areas where they overbrowse the natural vegetation—a result that in the present scenario would occur in tandem with commercial logging on public lands. Baiting also attracts and concentrates coyotes, raccoons, and opossums near ground-nesting birds; in Eastern deciduous forests, ground-nesting birds were found to be less abundant in baiting areas. Furthermore, baiting deer increases deer-auto collisions.
There is virtually no public demand for either of these bills. Surveys report that an estimated 73 percent of Americans disapprove of baiting and the practice is prohibited in 26 states or parts thereof. In recent years, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have moved in this direction. Conversely, in New Jersey, special interest groups and associated legislators are promoting deregulation and baiting.
S1848, to allow baiting and poaching practices, has been referred to Senator Smith’s Senate Energy and Environment Committee. S1085, to allow commercial logging on public lands, has been approved by the Senate and awaits action in the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. We must keep up the pressure during the summer and into early fall.