Monday, December 05, 2005

Going to Jersey for a bear!
Westerners might be surprised to find out that today is opening day in New Jersey for bear hunting. Yes-bears-not beers-of course which never goes out of season in the Garden State. New Jersey-bears? Yes-the native bruin population has been growing in this state of 8,700,000 humans. This is only the second time in 35 years that New Jersey has had a bear hunt. So what's the hype? Despite the fact that Jersey remains the most densely populated state in America (1,135 people per square mile-compared with 5.1 per square mile in Wyoming), wild critters seem to be hanging on. How can this be? Well, despite the fact that most people think of Jersey as a never-ending land of suburbia and turnpikes-the state has over 1.2 million acres of open space, including such gems as the Worthington State Forest (pictured above) along the Delaware River. And its getting better! Since 1998, New Jersey has committed to the protection of an additional 1 million acres, approximately half of the state's remaining developable land. Through the Garden State Preservation Trust, the NJDEP Green Acres program, and the State Agricultural Development Committee, the Garden State has gotten serious about protecting its rapidly disappearing open spaces. Will other states follow? Or will they continue to let their burgeoning populations consume the land in other less-than-wildlife compatible ways?

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