Amendment “Protect the Right to Hunt and Fish”
Ballot language: Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.
- There is no threat to anyone’s right to hunt or fish.
- There is no enabling legislation that explains the intent of the amendment
- It is unclear if property owners would be able to restrict hunting or fishing on private land.
- The impact on commercial fishing or on environmental regulations and protections is unclear.
- Extensive litigation is a likely outcome.
Voters will be asked to vote on six amendments to the North Carolina Constitution in November. They are all unnecessary, unprecedented, and politically motivated. We need to nix all six. It’s unclear who will write the final ballot language, but the current language is “Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.”
This amendment originated as Senate Bill 677 and is an obvious appeal by the General Assembly to lure Republicans to the polls. It would establish the right to use “traditional methods” to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife. It also prioritizes public hunting and fishing as the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife in North Carolina. The bill was drafted based on a template provided by the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. Though the bill fails to define “traditional methods,” most observers understand that the phrase is code for “guns.”
In addition to leaving open what “traditional methods” are, the bill also states that the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is “subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly.” Presumably laws relating to trespassing, property rights, or eminent domain would not be affected, but since these laws are also enacted by the General Assembly, it is unclear whose rights would prevail when they come in conflict. Can citizens shoot squirrels in a public park? Fish in protected streams? Hunt deer with silencers near the city limits? Would such inhumane methods as gill-netting, steel-jaw traps, and poison be permitted as “traditional methods” of hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife? According to Sen. Jeff Jackson, “This amendment may . . . end up causing plenty of litigation from hunters and fishermen who feel that existing regulations impinge on their (new) constitutional right. The courts would be left to establish standards for what level of regulatory intrusion would constitute a constitutional violation.”
Conservationists and wildlife advocates are also concerned that the amendment puts at risk protections against environmental regulations, animal cruelty, and wildlife management programs.
All in all, this amendment amounts to a solution in search of a problem. Senate Bill 677 trumpets, “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.” Fine. But the “right” to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is not under threat. There is no incremental or outright ban on these activities, and they do not need protecting beyond what is already governed by current statutes.
The amendment has been called “an embarrassingly transparent attempt to rouse conservative and rural voters.”
We should not be cluttering the North Carolina Constitution with unnecessary partisan appeals to a particular group of voters. Vote against the amendment to “Protect the Right to Hunt and Fish”!