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Idaho Statesman, Our View
November 2, 2012
Constitutional amendments: A feel-good proposal fraught with peril
Hunting, fishing and trapping are not under serious threat in Idaho — certainly not a threat that rises to a constitutional crisis.
For that reason alone, voters can comfortably reject House Joint Resolution 2, or HJR 2. There’s no need to clutter the Idaho Constitution with an all-new and unneeded amendment, even one that has a seemingly noncontroversial aim: to uphold the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers.
And here’s another compelling reason to vote no on Nov. 6. Beyond the frilly verbiage about preserving “a valued part of the heritage of the state of Idaho,” this new section opens up test cases in waiting:
• The amendment says hunting, fishing and trapping rights “shall forever be preserved.” Meaning what? Preserved, to the exclusion of any restrictions imposed by the Legislature (which approved this language on a bipartisan basis, with only seven dissenting votes) or the Fish and Game Commission (which endorses the amendment)?
• The amendment says hunting, fishing and trapping “shall be a preferred means” of wildlife management. Preferred, as to what? Does one constitutional preference affect the use of other management approaches?
• According to a clause that carries water for the Idaho Water Users Association, this amendment “shall not affect rights to divert, appropriate and use water, or establish any minimum amount of water in any water body.” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office says this language would not prevent the Legislature from establishing a minimum streamflow for wildlife. Maybe. Then again, this language would provide fodder for a group seeking to overturn a minimum streamflow designation.
This could just as easily be called a “right to litigate” amendment. Speaking of durable rights needing no protection from the Constitution.
Idaho Falls Post Register
November 1, 2012
HJR 2: A solution in search of a problem
Advocates of House Joint Resolution 2, which would provide hunting, fishing and trapping the same constitutional protections enjoyed by speech, religion and gun ownership, want Idahoans to believe the bogeyman is lurking around the corner: animal rights activists with extreme agendas. Before long, they warn, your right to harvest a buck or pull a trout from the river could disappear in a haze of litigation and regulations.
If that sounds incredible that’s because, well, it is. There is no threat to hunting or fishing in Idaho. None. Sportsmen have been protected by Idaho law for more than 70 years. Public support is almost absolute. A Fish & Game survey last year indicated 90 percent of Idahoans support hunting and 97 percent support fishing. Trapping is less popular but nobody in Idaho is talking about a ban. The only thing to fear here are the unintended consequences of signing off on cookie-cutter, special-interest legislation that is more deserving of indignation than enshrinement in our state’s guiding document.
Why should Idahoans vote no on HJR 2 Tuesday?
Let us count the ways:
(1) Idaho is one of four states with a hunting and fishing constitutional amendment on the ballot this year. Thirteen states have enacted something similar, the vast majority after the National Rifle Association began ratcheting up the fear. These debates are good for the NRA. They drive membership, raise money and provide a litmus test for lawmakers. As we saw in Idaho, legislators in an election year will inevitably choose the path of least resistance rather than butt heads with the NRA.
(2) The amendment on our ballot declares hunting, fishing and trapping to be “the preferred means of managing wildlife.” The Legislature retrains control over fish and game laws. And Fish and Game retains the right to revoke licenses. But what happens when a Rex Rammell is ticketed for illegally shooting an elk? Can you license a constitutional right? If one judge says “no,” wildlife management could be threatened.
(3) Amending the constitution is serious business. What is being proposed in HJR 2 is the alteration of a document that guarantees basic rights that affect all citizens to benefit a special-interest group. Hunting, fishing and trapping are activities that should be regulated based on science and public opinion. That requires the kind of flexibility HJR 2 threatens.
Idahoans overwhelmingly support the right to hunt, fish and trap. That’s not going to change no matter what happens with HJR 2.
By voting no on HJR 2, however, Idahoans would be doing the best kind of public service, by rejecting a powerful and influential special interest group’s decision to play upon our worst fears to suit its own selfish purposes.
Idaho Mountain Express editorial, Oct. 26, 2012
Proposed amendment may not perform as advertised
Idahoans have not read or heard enough debate on the ramifications of H.J.R. 2 as amended—the proposed constitutional amendment whose stated purpose is to protect the right to hunt, fish and trap—to cast an informed vote.
It doesn’t matter if a voter is for or against pursuing game animals. There’s simply not enough information out there to explain the ramifications of the amendment if it passes.
It may or may not perform as advertised. Without some in-depth discussion about its effects on the law and the state’s ability to manage wildlife, we risk enshrining a provision in the state constitution that could backfire on even the most ardent supporters of hunting, fishing and trapping. Supporters could find that the amendment carries unhappy unintended consequences that may surface down the line. There’s currently no way to know and information is scanty.
Even so, the Idaho Legislature approved the ballot measure and the Idaho Fish and Game Commission supports it as well.
Constitutional scholar David Adler, who heads the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, compared the amendment to adding a right to smoke or a right to ride a bicycle.
On its face, the measure would seem to be a no-brainer in a state where hunting and fishing are deeply rooted in family and community traditions, a state loved by Ernest Hemingway because of those outdoor traditions. Even in Idaho, however, many people have mixed feelings about trapping.
The amendment is rooted in fears that as the state grows city folk with no connection to these traditions will become politically dominant, and opponents may gain enough support to outlaw them or regulate them out of existence. It’s rooted in the fact that young people today are more likely to try to knock out green pigs in Angry Birds, a popular web game, than to learn the art of pursuing wild game. It’s also being driven by super-heated rhetoric from national animal rights groups that decry all forms of game hunting.
Whether the fears are well-founded is arguable. Whether the amendment will affect the state’s ability to base game management on science instead of politics is also unknown. In the face of the unknowns, the conservative move for voters is to vote no.
Twin Falls Times-News editorial, July 25, 2012
Right To Hunt Could Cause More Problems Than It Solves
We have to wonder about the need for a constitutional amendment protecting hunting, fishing and trapping. By the amendment author’s own admission, Idahoans have been practicing these sports for a very long time.
“The original mountain men, the original Idahoans, were much more involved in trapping, and that’s why they came out here,” Sen. Lee Heider, who represents Twin Falls, said in a recent interview with the Times-News.
If most people in the state approve of these sports, and they’re a part of the state’s history, why are we wasting the time and money on a new piece of legislation?
We may as well propose amendments protecting our rights to eat potatoes and hug our mothers.
Yes, there is some controversy over trapping. Nez Perce National Forest employee Josh Bransford fueled the controversy just in time for elections when he posed in front of a trapped and suffering wolf, rather than immediately dispatching the creature. But other than a few environmental groups crying foul, we can’t find any evidence of Idahoans wanting the practice outlawed. A recent poll on Magicvalley.com showed 343 people still in favor of the amendment, and 229 opposed. A 3:2 ratio among an electorate pretty much guarantees a landslide.
The whole controversy smacks of political opportunism.
Heider and other lawmakers get to build their cachet by supporting something already popular.
Questions remain about the effect of the amendment, as well. While making it clear hunting, fishing and trapping will be further regulated by legislation, it doesn’t make provisions for what will happen when laws impede a person’s new right to hunt. Occasionally the best thing for a species is to cancel harvesting season so their numbers have a chance to increase. Under the new amendment, would a hunter’s right take legal precedent over the need of the species? That remains to be seen.
What is clear is that the proposed constitutional amendment is a pointless piece of legislation that could potentially cause more problems than it solves. We recommend legislators spend time on laws that can actually help the state of Idaho, rather than trying to fix something that isn’t broken.