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For Release: Thursday, May 22, 2014

DEC Adopts Black Bear Management Plan After Considering Public Comments

Changes to Bear Hunting Regulations Proposed for Fall 2014; Public Comment Accepted Through July 7

Under Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting initiative, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) adopted a ten-year black bear management plan, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The plan outlines the principles and methods used to monitor and manage black bear populations in New York and provides strategic guidance for the DEC's activities. The plan includes several proposed hunting rule changes.

"After careful consideration of thousands of public comments, the strategies outlined in the Black Bear Management Plan seek to achieve and maintain bear population levels that are acceptable to the public while providing sustainable opportunity for New York's big game hunters," Commissioner Joe Martens said. "The plan also addresses public partnerships to reduce human-bear conflicts."

The final Black Bear Management Plan for New York State, 2014-2024 is available on the DEC website. Key elements of the final plan include the scientific monitoring of bear populations; continued use of stakeholders to assess bear impacts and identify population trend objectives; recommendations to expand areas open to bear hunting throughout upstate New York and to increase hunting opportunities in portions of southeastern New York. The plan emphasizes DEC's integrated approach to reduce negative black bear impacts by increasing public awareness of its role in preventing human-bear conflicts, by addressing individual incidents of bear damage, and by reducing bear populations where necessary.

Public comments on the draft bear plan were carefully reviewed by DEC, and a summary and assessment of the public comment is also available on the DEC website. Based on the input received, DEC made several revisions to the plan, including:

  • adding more detail about the extensive public interaction that was used to develop the plan and opportunities for future public input about bear impacts and objectives;
  • reiterating emphasis on public education and outreach as one part of an integrated approach to reduce human-bear conflicts;
  • describing DEC's collaboration with professional bear managers and researchers from other jurisdictions; and
  • clarifying that DEC plans to assess the tradeoffs and implications of use of dogs, bait or live capture cable-restraints for taking bears, though none of these measures are currently being proposed for use in New York at this time.

To begin implementing the new bear plan, DEC proposed rule changes that would establish bear hunting seasons in all of upstate New York, create a supplemental early firearms season for bears in the Catskills and Western Hudson Valley area, and provide a uniform start for bowhunting and early bear seasons in the Northern Zone. Specifically the proposed rule would:

  • allow bear hunting in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 6A, 6G, 6N, and all of 6K during the Northern Zone early bowhunting season, early muzzleloader season, and regular firearms season;
  • allow bear hunting in WMUs 4A, 4B, 4J, 5R, 6P, 6R, 6S, 7A, 7F, 7H, 7J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 9A, and 9F during the Southern Zone early and late bowhunting seasons, regular firearms season, and late muzzleloading season;
  • create a supplemental firearms bear season for 16 days beginning the 1st Saturday after Labor Day (Sept. 6 - Sept. 21, 2014) in WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3K, 3J, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, and 4R;
  • begin the Northern Zone bowhunting season for bears on the same day as the early bear season, the 1st Saturday after the 2nd Monday in September (2nd Saturday after Labor Day).

DEC will accept written public comment on the proposed hunting rule changes through July 7, 2014. The rulemaking documents can be seen on the DEC website. The proposed rule can also be viewed in the May 21, 2014 publication of the New York State Register, which is posted on the DOS website (this link can be found in the right hand column of this page). Citizens who wish to make formal public comments may do so by sending an email to: wildliferegs@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by writing to: Mr. Bryan L. Swift, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

The NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.

In support of this initiative, this year's budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have not reached their full potential. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.

This year's budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

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