North Carolina may be one step closer to having a constitutional amendment to protect the right to hunt and fish.
In an official statement by NC House Speaker Tim Moore, SB 677 originally passed in the House Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations by a unanimous voice vote. It says that “public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife..Nothing herein shall be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights, or eminent domain.”
Senate Bill 677 Protect Right to Hunt and Fish, which was passed by a bipartisan vote of 92-23 on Monday in the state’s house chamber, would ensure fishing and hunting would be protected rights in the Land of the Pines. This bill was approved as part of the referendum process, to which voters will decide the fate of this legislation. Democrats cited concerns with language pertaining to “traditional methods” of hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife. Per WRAL, North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission “supports the bill and has said it will continue to allow the General Assembly to pass laws and empower the executive branch to set hunting and fishing rules.”
If it succeeds on the ballot this fall, North Carolina could become the 22nd state with a constitutional amendment to protect the right to fish and hunt. 20 of the 21 states had their voters approve these amendments. Vermont’s is the oldest, dating back to 1777. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) describes why states pursue these amendments:
Sportsmen in many states increasingly feel as if they are the ones outside the duck blind, and they are turning to state constitutions to ensure their hallowed pastime will continue in perpetuity. Increasing urbanization, decreased habitat, declining numbers of sportsmen, and more restrictions on hunting are common factors in the quest to assert the right to hunt and fish in a state’s most basic and difficult-to-amend document. On land that has been traditionally open to sportsmen, development of farmland and forests, along with pressure from other recreational groups such as hikers and off-road vehicles, is putting the pinch on the available land for harvesting game and fish…Opponents state that these provisions clutter a constitution and overstate the threat to these activities, while possibly limiting or increasing the amount and severity of restrictions that can be placed on sportsmen activities. The Humane Society states, “The constitution should guarantee fundamental democratic rights, not provide protection for a recreational pastime.”
Organizations like National Rifle Association (NRA) have long supported this constitutional amendment process to fight back attacks hurled by animal rights activists. Similar groups like Congressional Sportsmen Foundation (CSF) support it but believe it’ll have far reach to ensure these two activities thrive and survive. CSF recommends the following language be added to any proposed RTHF amendments:
- Recognition of an individual right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.
- Preservation of the state’s power to regulate these activities and the codification of the Public Trust Doctrine.
- Preemption of the kind of local regulation that frustrates comprehensive, statewide wildlife management.
- Protection of traditional hunting methods such as the use of archery equipment and hunting with dogs.
- Recognition of hunting and fishing as preferred means of managing wildlife, rather than unproven contraception schemes and unwarranted use of government “sharpshooters”.
- Clarification that private property rights are not affected or diminished.
- It should be noted that the state agency should be named only if it is already a constitutionally-recognized entity. If this is not the case, a generic term such as “designated state agency” should be used.