If history is any guide, in November, voters in Indiana and Kansas will likely approve constitutional amendments guaranteeing the right to hunt and fish in their respective states.
Prior 1996, Vermont was the only state guaranteeing the right to fish and hunt. Now 19 states do. The decision was made by voters through referendums or constitutional amendments in all but two of those states.
With Arizona being the sole exception, voters have approved right-to-hunt-and-fish measures by relatively large majorities in states where they have been considered.
Protecting ‘Cultural Heritage’
With the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) backing, proponents say adding hunting and fishing as rights guaranteed in constitution would protect an important part of the states’ cultural heritage from regulations seen in some other states.
“In 20 years, the makeup in the legislature could be different, maybe a lot more people will have moved away from their rural traditions and won’t have as much an interest in hunting and fishing,” said Catherine Mortensen, a spokesperson for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action to Governing. “We want to make sure we have those protections for our rural heritage.”
Each measure also requires using fishing and hunting as the states’ preferred method for managing wildlife populations.
Right to hunt and fish amendments have arisen in response to a number of issues including, hunting restrictions being introduced or enacted at the behest of animal rights organizations, increasing urbanization, decreasing habitat, and declining numbers of sportsmen.
Hunting and fishing seasons and methods of take are regulated in every state, but outright bans are rare and usually limited to individual species. For instance, California — which guarantees the right to fish but not hunt — banned mountain lion hunting in 1990, while dove hunting was banned in Michigan in 2005 and a referendum to overturn the ban failed in 2006.
Governing reports Christopher Tymeson, chief legal counsel for the Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife and Tourism, says the department favors the amendment because it would protect an important source of economic activity and conservation funding. Fishing, hunting and wildlife trapping generate about $1 billion a year, and license sales and other fees pay for the state agency’s conservation efforts.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.