(CNSNews.com) - Activists moved one step closer to shutting down New Jersey's first bear hunt in 33 years on Wednesday, while a sportsmen's group vowed to intervene in the case to defend hunters.
The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division agreed on Wednesday to consider emergency relief in a case filed by Saving Our Resources Today (SORT). That case is separate from a lawsuit filed in federal court by The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States and The Center for Animal Protection, all seeking to block the hunt.
SORT claims that the Fish and Game Council approved the black bear hunt, which is scheduled for next week, but the Division of Parks and Forestry did not publish a notice seek public comment before opening the lands to bear hunts, nor did it conduct an independent evaluation of each public tract of land to determine the environmental impact of the hunt, as it was required to do.
"With an issue as controversial as the trophy hunting of bears for the first time in 33 years, our state agencies simply must follow the law," said Raymond Povalski, director of environmental affairs for SORT.
"Where the ultimate issue is public safety and appropriate use of public resources, the agency's responsibility to perform its necessary duties cannot be ignored. Our state parks and forests should be off limits to bear hunters for the safety and security of the general public," Povalski said.
But the Sportsmen's Alliance Defense Fund says the hunt should go on as scheduled Dec. 8.
"Anti-hunting groups want all Park Service land to be off limits for hunting," said Rob Sexton, vice president for government affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation.
The foundation is the nation's only litigation force that exclusively represents sportsmen's interests in the court. It plans to intervene in the case on behalf of New Jersey hunters.
"Hunting is permitted by law on National Recreation Areas, including this one on which hunting has been occurring for many years. This is simply another ploy to stop the black bear hunt from taking place," said Sexton.
"Three frivolous lawsuits in the past month must be some kind of record," said Sexton.
The hunt is scheduled to run from Dec. 8-13 at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which is managed by the National Park Service. At least 10 parks are included in the bear hunt area. State lands make up more than 60 percent of the total area scheduled to be open to bear hunting as of Monday.
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