Indiana voters will decide whether to adopt a constitutional amendment to protect hunting and fishing as a right. Animal rights groups, of course, oppose it.
Hoosier voters will have an opportunity to join 19 other states in declaring hunting and fishing as constitutional rights.
Indiana (along with Kansas) both have initiatives on their November ballots that will safeguard the right to hunt and fish, should they go through. Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York have similar legislation pending.
The measure will "forever preserve" the right to hunt and fish, but opponents of the proposal say that it addresses a threat that doesn't exist.
Erin Huang, head of the Humane Society's Indiana chapter, claims that, "The right to hunt and fish are not under attack. We're opening up a pretty sacred document and giving constitutional protection for a pastime that we don't do for other pastimes."
Huang also said that there is the potential for unintended consequences with the proposal, stating that it could complicate wildlife management decisions and open the state to lawsuits against hunting restrictions or regulation changes.
However, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, who authored the amendment, said that he wants to make sure that those rights are protected. Animal rights groups have tried many times in the past to severely limit or outright ban hunting.
"It's up to Hoosiers to decide whether this is part of their heritage or not," said Steele. "For me it is, and for the thousands of Hoosiers who hunt and fish, it's an important part of who they are."
NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen indicated that the pro-Second Amendment group is interested in thwarting future attempts by animal rights groups--"misguided extremists" as she put it--to ban hunting either incrementally or outright.
Mortensen recalled the dove hunting ban in Michigan as well as California's ban on mountain lion hunting due to pressure from animal rights extremists.
Every state around Michigan has a dove hunting season and the species is abundant. There is no sound wildlife management reason to not have a dove season in Michigan. There are also an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions currently inhabiting California, and several attacks on humans have been documented over the years.
"What we're trying to do is be proactive and say we don't want these extremist animal rights groups coming in with a political agenda and chipping away people's right to hunt," she said. Steele echoed Mortensen's assessment, describing the measure as an "inoculation" against anti-hunter efforts to ban hunting .
Opponents of the amendment would still be able to change the laws, if they could garner enough support, but the amendment makes it a bit more difficult. Steele also said the Indiana DNR would still be able to set and define hunting and fishing regulations to promote wildlife conservation and maintain sound management policy.
Minnesota passed a similar amendment in 1998, and Minnesota DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen indicated that the agency has experienced no problems managing wildlife due to challenges to the amendment, and that the courts have agreed with the state's right to regulate hunting and fishing.
Here are the proposed right to hunt and fish constitutional amendments voters in Indiana and Kansas will vote on Nov. 8:
Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by adding a Section 39 to Article 1 to provide that the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to the laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly to: promote wildlife conservation and management; and preserve the future of hunting and fishing?"
The people have the right to hunt, fish and trap, including by the use of traditional methods, subject to reasonable laws and regulations that promote wildlife conservation and management and that preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights or water resources.
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