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Fish and Wildlife Public Opinion Survey Results Released
Shows Strong Support for NJ Fish and Wildlife Agency and State Environmental Protection Initiatives

August 18, 2004
New Jersey residents continue to show support for state initiatives and policies of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and its Division of Fish and Wildlife according to a survey released by Responsive Management for the Northeast Conservation Information and Education Association (NCIEA). The survey showed New Jerseyans strongly support efforts to control sprawl from development, protect open space, upgrade protection for high quality waterways, increase protection for endangered and non-game species and protect and manage landscapes on a regional basis. The survey also showed residents strongly support the professional management of the state's fish and wildlife resources by the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The study focused on the 13 member states of the NCIEA which includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

Polluted water / water quality, habitat loss, urban sprawl and bear and deer management were perceived to be the most important natural resource issues facing the state today. Respondents showed deference for fish and wildlife habitat over human use of the land, and more respondents thought that the use and development of land should be restricted to protect fish and wildlife (88% agreed) than should be allowed for development. In fact, 84% disagreed that development for new home sites should take precedence over preserving wildlife habitat and 80% disagreed that landowners should be allowed to develop their land regardless of its impact on wildlife.

New Jerseyans were also shown to be very outdoor oriented with half of all respondents indicating they or someone from their household had gone out to observe wildlife in New Jersey in the past year. Visiting a state or national park, wildlife watching, bird watching, hiking, biking, fresh and saltwater fishing and hunting all ranked high on the list of favorite outdoor activities. This significant involvement in outdoor activities by residents again reinforces support for state policies to provide more recreational opportunities for people, and to expand protected open spaces through the state's Green Acres Program and partnerships with Federal, County, Municipal and Non-Profit agencies and organizations.

Public opinion and credibility of the state's fish and wildlife management agency, in this case the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife (Division) was looked at extensively. The survey found that while most people did not know which government agency was most responsible for managing and protecting fish and wildlife in New Jersey, more people had positive rather than negative perceptions about the Division. Indeed, a majority of all respondents agreed that the staff at the Division of Fish and Wildlife really cares about fish and wildlife, and substantial percentages agreed that the Division effectively balances the interests of hunters, anglers, conservation groups and the general public. Of those who had contacted the Division, a large majority (83%) was satisfied with the contact. Most people (82%) also thought the Division the most credible source of fish and wildlife information in New Jersey. In comparison, respondents felt that the least credible sources of information were spokespersons with advocacy organizations.

Other interesting findings obtained through this survey had to do with the funding of the Division of Fish and Wildlife and public perception of hunting, fishing and trapping. In an open ended question wherein respondents could name any funding source, New Jersey residents most commonly thought that unspecified taxes (42%), general state revenue (18%) and hunting and fishing licenses (17%) were funding sources for the Division. In fact, while true, more disagreed (33%) than agreed (16%) with the statement that: "fees from hunting and fishing licenses, excises taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, and a portion of the existing tax on motor boat fuel are the only sources of funds for the Division of Fish and Wildlife." "It does not receive funding from general tax revenues". A much greater percentage of respondents agreed (69%) than disagreed (15%) that the costs for managing fish and wildlife should be paid through specific user fees such as hunting and fishing licenses. A much greater percentage (73%) supported than opposed (17%) using general state tax revenues to provide information on fish and wildlife.

Regarding hunting, fishing and trapping, approval of fishing was the highest at 87% followed by hunting at 66% and then trapping at 45%. While many New Jerseyan's may not take part in these activities, the survey points out that most support these activities.

For the survey, telephones were used as the preferred sampling method because of the universality of phone ownership. Approximately 400 people in each state were contacted with a total of 5,251 respondents surveyed. Throughout the report, findings of this general population survey are reported at a 95% confidence interval. For the entire sample of New Jersey residents, the sampling error is at most plus or minus 4.90 percentage points. Survey result reports were compiled for each individual state as well as a report on the results for the entire northeast region.

Surveys like this are an important gauge of how well agencies are meeting their goals and working with their constituents, customers and the general public. Information gathered from this survey will enable the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Fish and Wildlife to better manage New Jersey's natural resources ensuring a healthy future for wildlife populations in the state, and meeting the needs of New Jersey residents.

Responsive Management is a nationally recognized public opinion and attitude survey research firm specializing in natural resource and outdoor recreation issues. Information on Responsive Management along with the survey reports for each of the 13 northeast states and the regional report can be found on their website at
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