A former New Jersey state legislator filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that effectively gives hunting groups the power to select a majority of the 11-member NJ Fish and Wildlife Council, which sets wildlife policy for the state. The lawsuit was filed by former senator Ray Lesniak and the Lesniak Institute. Lesniak argued that the law which requires the governor to appoint six members to the Council from a list of recommended candidates submitted by the New Jersey State Federation of Sportmen’s Clubs effectively gives outsized power to a private interest group, in violation of the state constitution’s establishment of three distinct branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial. The judge denied Lesniak’s request for a preliminary injunction to halt the fall bear hunt, which began October 9. Lesniak said he will appeal.
In an op-ed published in NJ.com, Wildlife for All co-executive directors Michelle Lute and Kevin Bixby applauded the lawsuit. “If successful, this litigation would end the stranglehold that a shrinking but powerful interest group–hunters–have long had on wildlife matters in New Jersey. It would set an important precedent that would open the door to democratizing wildlife management in other states, bringing fairness and justice to one of the least democratic arenas of public policy in the U.S.”