Recently I wrote about a proposed constitutional amendment in Maine that is being presented as an amendment to protect the “right” to hunt, trap and fish – LD 11. I also wrote that this proposal was one that I could support and I was wrong to have made the statement using the words that I did because I failed to succinctly express the full truth in my statement. Please let me explain.
Yesterday, I was reading David Trahan’s (Executive Director of the Sportman’s Alliance of Maine) testimony before the Legislative Committee in support of the proposed amendment.
To many, his words ring true, much because most of us have been taught certain things about our federal and state constitutions and the rights we have been granted under those constitution. Men don’t grant rights to anyone. They simply claim ownership of them and hand them back to us in some kind of limited form or fully deny us of such rights.
Trahan states that when this nation was founded, wildlife was “placed in the public trust” and as such we had the right to take it for sustenance. Therefore, Americans have always possessed the right to hunt, fish and trap. I will have to save for another day any debate on this so-called public trust and our inherent right to hunt, fish and trap. I will proceed from the perspective of most that they do have either a right or a privilege.
As Mr. Trahan also pointed out, man decided that in order to sustain game and other wildlife, they must construct laws to limit that activity. What happened to our inherent “right” to hunt, trap and fish when the limitations by law became enforced? Is anything really a “right” when it is controlled by man? We evidently believe so. When men, because they couldn’t maintain viable game populations through their own disciplines, called upon man-governments to do it for them, it began the process of destroying any semblance of a right to hunt. I ask once again, what happened to a so-called “right” to hunt wildlife “placed in the public trust” when at least some of that right was ceded over to government and restricted?
This is not that much different than the argument of sovereignty, in which most people do not understand sovereignty of an individual or a government agency. How are you a sovereign individual? Oh, you might say, “Nobody tells me what to do! I’m my own man!” But you are not. You might be a legend in your own mind, but you are not a sovereign individual. Once a man agrees to become part of a community, whether it is a small as a neighborhood or as large as a nation, they have agreed to relinquish that sovereignty and place it under the control of the government. Your act of relinquishment places decisions about your life into the hands of the controlling government agencies.
In Maine, at some point in time, the full right to hunt, trap and fish, was ceded to the State Government to control and make the decisions for us as to what, when and how we might harvest game. Trahan points this out in his testimony. In reality, the sportsmen have very little control over their perceived right to hunt. What has evolved since the creation of game and wildlife laws, is that the government agency formulated to oversee hunting, trapping and fishing, call the shots. Yup, proposals for new laws can be presented. Sometimes they get through a committee and most times not. You are heard before a committee but if you can’t get by the committee then what has become of your “right” to hunt, trap and fish. If you do get through committee you are at the mercy of the Legislature. Where then is your protected right?
Many believe that an amendment to the Constitution will guarantee, protect or create a “right” to hunt, trap and fish. They are wrong. I have written many times on this subject and stated that unless an amendment mandated or forced the government to do something, it is nothing more than words on a piece of paper.
The proposed LD 11 states, in reference to the right of the people of Maine to hunt, fish and trap, that this right: “may not be infringed.” (emboldening added) This is not a mandate. It does not force the Legislature, the Governor, Law Enforcement, or anybody else to stop any infringement of a person’s right to hunt, trap and fish. Go ask a lawyer – or at least an intelligent and honest one (yeah I know). Or go research it yourself. “May” is not a mandate – only a suggestion.
Further, the amendment says that this non infringement of the right to hunt, trap and fish is subject to “reasonable” laws enacted by the Legislature and “reasonable” rules adopted by the department in charge of management of game, fish and other wildlife. Is a “reasonable” law or rule an infringement? We’ve already established that the protection against infringement is non binding because the lawyers chose “may” instead of “must.”
So, who decides what “reasonable” means? I hope you are beginning to understand.
The amendment establishes that the department in reference is supposed to “promote wildlife conservation and management” and “maintain natural resources in trust for public use” (emboldening added) and this evidently will “preserve the future of hunting and fishing.” Nothing here is a mandate that forces anybody to do anything. What is wildlife conservation? As it is in operation today, wildlife conservation becomes a matter of which social entity has the most dollars and the loudest mouth to force their idealistic perceptions and conceptions of wildlife conservation.
The Department, according to this amendment will “maintain” natural resources. Maintain them how and to what levels of population that will guarantee, protect or create the “right” to hunt, trap and fish? This, of course, is left up to the Department, which is what takes places now. There is no mandate. There is no protection of any right.
The amendment further states that “public hunting and fishing are the preferred means…” (emboldening added) Where is the mandate here that will guarantee, protect or create a “right” to hunt, trap and fish? The Department might “prefer” to use hunting and fishing but what if they decide to import wolves to control populations of deer and moose? Where is the mandate? Where is the protection of any “right” to hunt, trap and fish? And would such a decision be “reasonable?”
The truth is, that while this is better language than previously proposed in other amendments, voters in Maine should not be misled to believe that this amendment, as written, will guarantee, protect or create for Maine citizens, the “right” to hunt, trap and fish.
And on the reverse of this, as I have already read in a few spreads of clap trap nonsense, such an amendment, as written will not destroy the process to petition the state. This should be obvious once you understand this proposal has nothing in it that is a mandate, forcing anybody to do anything.
When I said this amendment was something I could support, that statement was not accurate and I apologize for misleading people, if I did. First, I could not “support” such and amendment in the literal sense because I am not a legal resident of Maine and therefore could not vote for it if I wanted.
My thinking at the time was that while there still were no mandates in the proposal, perhaps the language was such that it might deter the onslaught of lawsuits and referendums that have been piled onto the Pine Tree State. It may, in fact, increase them. It is difficult to assess.
I will work harder to choose my words and the statements I make more carefully.