North Carolina Voters Enshrine Hunting, Fishing As Constitutional Rights

Published January 7, 2019

North Carolina voters passed a ballot initiative establishing hunting and fishing as rights protected in the state’s constitution.

The measure was introduced to the ballot by Republicans in the state legislature, and the referendum passed in the general election, with the state’s voters approving it by approximately 57 percent to 44 percent.

The amendment states, in part, “The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good.”

Funding Conservation

The amendment also establishes hunting and fishing as the state’s preferred means of wildlife management. Hunting and fishing remain subject to laws passed by the state’s General Assembly for wildlife conservation and management.

Hunters and anglers pay for the majority of wildlife protection in the state, says Catherine Mortensen, media liaison with the National Rifle Association.

“Hunters and anglers directly fund these efforts through a variety of licenses, taxes, and fees,” Mortensen said. “For instance, in 2017, the sale of hunting licenses in North Carolina alone brought in $10.55 million and fishing licenses brought in $19.71 million. Fees paid by hunters and anglers go straight into conservation, and without this revenue, the state of North Carolina would be hard-pressed to fund its conservation efforts.

“North Carolina is now one of 22 states with a constitutional amendment protecting the right to hunt and fish,” said Mortensen. “Passing a constitutional right to hunt and fish is extremely important to funding fish and wildlife research and conservation.”

A study by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and the Arizona Game and Fish Department found approximately 60 percent of the annual budgets for state wildlife agencies comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, tags, and stamps and from taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.

‘Chipping Away at Hunting Rights’

Enshrining hunting and fishing as a constitutional right enables states to head off future problems, says Mortensen.

“Hunting and fishing are cherished North Carolina traditions that, when paired with science, are an integral part of wildlife management and conservation,” said Mortensen. “Unfortunately, misguided extremists have been trying for decades to ban hunting through incremental steps, including through outright bans on certain species, and extremist political groups have succeeded in chipping away at hunting rights in many states.

“Every election year, there are proposed hunting bans in states across the country, but with this vote North Carolinians have insulated themselves from that,” Mortensen said.

There was no specific event triggering the need for a hunting and fishing rights amendment, says Mitch Kokai, a senior political analyst with the John Locke Foundation.

“Unlike in other states, there was no current hunting controversy precipitating the amendment,” Kokai said, “Instead, Republican legislators seemed to have latched onto hunting and fishing rights as a cause that might help drive conservative, rural voters to the polls.”

Linnea Lueken ([email protected])¬†writes from Laramie, Wyoming.