A coalition of groups who enjoy, maintain, and support New Jersey’s public lands are in opposition to S-699. Our coalition includes organizations that work on protecting open space, maintaining public lands, manage people on hikes, and represent all residents who use of our public parks, forests, and wildlife areas.
“Sunday is the one day that the people of New Jersey should be able to go outdoors without hearing guns or be concerned about safety. It is the only day many people have off to spend with their families. These public lands belong to all of us and should not be given for one group to use at the expense of all others.” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
We represent hundreds of thousands of people who use our state and local parks regularly, especially about 200,000 direct members and supporters of our organizations. This bill would impact all outdoor recreation clubs, environmental educators, hikers, bikers, trail builders, birders, photographers, homeowners, and taxpayers who have contributed to funding for these lands. The New Jersey Conservation Foundation has alone maintained and acquired 130,000 acres of land and the New Jersey Sierra Club members participate in over 200 hikes per year. All the coalition groups advocate for public space and open lands.
The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of over 2,000 miles of public trails in the metropolitan region. Their activity in each trail region is organized and guided in large part by volunteer Trail Chairs, who are responsible for the activities of volunteers working on trail projects in the field.
“The percentage of Hunters in relationship to the general population that also enjoys the great N.J. outdoors is minimal. The Majority would like at least one day a week to stroll in our woodlands without the fear of being assailed by buckshot,”said Bob Jonas, Trail Chair for the Central North Jersey trail region.
This bill sets up unfair treatment towards hunters who as of 2013 only make up .0087 of the state population– less than one percent. In 2013, there were 77,607 hunting license holders in New Jersey. The state’s population in July 2014 was 8,938,000.
The state has various firearm hunting seasons for different species every week of the year. We have a season for deer, bear, turkey, various geese and duck species, pheasant, bobwhite, quail, snipe, woodcock, grouse, various rail species, crows, coyote, fox, possum, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, and woodchuck. Based on these various hunting seasons and the proposed bill, there would be virtually no Sundays without gun hunting.
Many groups like ours organize hikes, specifically on Sunday, to avoid conflicts on other hunting days. 10 other states in our region ban hunting on Sundays so this bill would dramatically increase the amount of hunters from other areas, increasing safety risk. New Jersey currently allows bow hunting on private lands on Sundays, not in parks and forests. This bill would also allow bow hunting on public lands, where most people are hiking. We already allow it, so this is going too far.
“Many people are simply not comfortable recreating in areas with active gun hunting, and their views have validity. New Jersey is a crowded state; our public trust lands should continue to accommodate their needs on Sundays,” said Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
New Jersey families, and all residents who plan enjoyable and safe experiences in our public parks would also be hard hit by a Sunday extension for hunting. Many non-hunters work and attend school on weekdays and Saturdays; therefore, New Jersey residents specifically plan their trips on Sundays to avoid conflicts with hunters and enjoy wild places with peace of mind knowing that they are safe.
“It’s hard enough as it is to find peace and quiet in The Garden State. We should be able to enjoy our public lands at least one day a week without having that peace perforated by gunfire,” said Samuel Huber, resident of Montclair, hiker and bird-watcher.
The majority of New Jersey’s public lands were funded by taxpayers, not hunters. The current system provides ample measures for hunters to use public lands. We believe that non-gun hunters should enjoy our state lands peacefully for at least one day.
Our coalition sent a letter to Senate and Assembly leadership to not move this forward. The coalition includes: Environment New Jersey, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Highlands Coalition, New Jersey Sierra Club, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, and the Land Conservancy of New Jersey. This bill should die.
“We’ve asked the leaders of the the legislature to hold this bill because we believe there should be at least one day that people can go outdoors, hike, bird watch, take photographs, paint– or do whatever and not to be concerned about hunting. We are not an animal rights group. We are a parks and open space users rights group.” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
New Jersey Sierra Club