August 22, 2019

Wisconsin’s ‘Right to Hunt’ Law Could Mean Jail for Animal Activists 

The proposed bill, however, would criminalize photographing or videotaping hunters, as well as what it calls “impeding a person who is engaged in an activity associated with lawful hunting.” It would also cover any “acts that are preparatory to lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping.”

Source: Wisconsin’s ‘Right to Hunt’ Law Could Mean Jail for Animal Activists – Yahoo News

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Outdoors in Maine: Amendment may not be ‘silver bullet,’ but it would be well worth it

Earlier this month, two legislative bills that would, in all likelihood, represent a preemptive strike against the HSUS anti-hunting initiatives in Maine were heard by the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Wildlife. Basically, the two bills, LD 703 and LD 753, would amend the state constitution so as to protect the people’s right to hunt and fish and manage wildlife.

From all reports, these bills are going to get an inordinate amount of legislative scrutiny.

Source: Outdoors in Maine: Amendment may not be ‘silver bullet,’ but it would be well worth it

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Testimony Given in Right to Hunt Constitutional Amendment

Senator Paul Davis, Representative Michael Shaw, distinguished members of the committee on Inland Fisheries and wildlife.

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak here today. My name is Brett Patten and I am here to testify in support of LD753, a proposal that would amend Maine’s Constitution to protect an individual’s right to hunt, and fish. And, in concept, LD703 a proposal that would amend the constitution of Maine to protect the people’s right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.

That being said, I feel here in Maine we pride ourselves on having strong beliefs as well as our own thoughts and ideas. That is why I’m asking you, when these bills go to work session that you make them our own. Make this “Maine’s Constitutional Amendment”, not Idaho’s, not Kentucky’s or any other state in the union, but Maine’s. There is a belief that similar Constitutional Amendments in other states, that are already in place, will work here in Maine, maybe they will, I don’t know. I do know this, in Maine we tend to do things our way, and not the way of others. This may be our best opportunity to do this so I would ask you to make this the best it can be.

Notwithstanding the fact that I am in favor of these bills, I am proposing the following changes in section 26 of the amendment and to the question that would appear on the ballot.
(Changes are in bold type)

Section 26. Right to hunt, fish, trap and harvest game and fish.
The right of the people of this state to hunt, fish, trap and harvest game and fish, including by the use of traditional methods, may not be infringed, subject to reasonable laws enacted by the legislature and reasonable rules adopted by the state agency designated for fish and wildlife management to promote wildlife conservation and management, to maintain natural resources in trust for public use and to preserve the future of hunting, fishing and trapping managing fish and game for surplus harvest. Public hunting, fishing and trapping are preferred means of managing, controlling and perpetuating fish and wildlife. This section may not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to eminent domain, trespass or property rights.

The question on the ballot would read like this:
“Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to provide that the right of the people of this state to hunt, fish, trap and harvest game and fish may not be infringed, subject to reasonable laws and rules, and to provide that public hunting, fishing and trapping are a preferred means of managing, controlling and perpetuating wildlife”?

I have hunted and fished in Maine most of my life and in recent years I’ve found a real love in trapping. I’m very proud to say I’m a registered Maine guide, a member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Maine Professional Guide’s Association and the Maine Trapper’s Association. Last year’s fight against the bear referendum showed me a lot about who we are as Mainer’s. Although I was sickened at the amount of money and resources wasted in last years fight, I’m very grateful that I got to be a part of, and see firsthand, the solidarity and determination it took to defeat the Humane Society of the United States, for the second time in 10 years. For those of you that may not know, the Maine trapper’s Association donated over $117,000.00 towards last years cause along with soliciting thousands more from other fraternal organization’s. Trapping is a valuable part of Maine’s wildlife conservation and has been for hundreds of years. The word “trap” and the word “trapping” deserve to be in this amendment.

Opponents of bills like these say, “A State’s Constitution should guarantee fundamental democratic rights, not provide protection for recreational pastimes.” I say, “Hunting, fishing, and trapping are not recreational pastimes, but they are rights, rights of the people of this great state that should be protected forever!”

I would ask you to please vote “ought to pass” with the few changes I have presented.

I would be happy to answer any questions that the committee may have.

Thank you all for your time and God bless.

Respectfully submitted,
Brett Patten

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Maine Should Try Some Originality in Their Quest for Constitutional Amendment

I read an article today from Texas. The link was sent to me by a reader. The article was an announcement of sorts of the Texas Legislature’s proposal for a constitutional amendment for the “right” to hunt, fish and trap. The proposal is HJR 61.

Here are the magic words:

“Sec.A34.AA(a) The people have the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, subject to laws or regulations to conserve and manage wildlife and preserve the future of hunting and fishing. (b)AAHunting and fishing are preferred methods of managing and controlling wildlife. (c)AAThis section does not affect any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights, or eminent domain.”

Here is what one amendment proposal from Maine says: (LD 753)

“Section 26. Right to hunt, fish and harvest game and fish. The right of the people of this State to hunt, fish and harvest game and fish, including by the use of traditional methods, may not be infringed, subject to reasonable laws enacted by the Legislature and reasonable rules adopted by the state agency designated for fish and wildlife management to promote wildlife conservation and management, to maintain natural resources in trust for public use and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing are a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section may not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to eminent domain, trespass or property rights.”

Recently Idaho passed a constitutional amendment for the “right” to hunt, trap and fish:

“SECTION 23. THE RIGHTS TO HUNT, FISH AND TRAP. The rights to hunt, fish and trap, including by the use of traditional methods, are a valued part of the heritage of the State of Idaho and shall forever be preserved for the people and managed through the laws, rules and proclamations that preserve the future of hunting, fishing and trapping. Public hunting, fishing and trapping of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. The rights set forth herein do not create a right to trespass on private property, shall not affect rights to divert, appropriate and use water, or establish any minimum amount of water in any water body, and shall not lead to a diminution of other private rights.”

Do you see what has happened? This wording is nearly verbatim to words adopted by other state fish and game departments. I am contending that these words are being deliberately pushed through any state seeking an amendment, including Maine.

I just don’t know how I can get people to realize what this wording does…..effectively nothing. Oh yeah, it MIGHT help to stop a couple of silly lawsuits here and there but will do nothing to protect a right and provide a means in which we can exercise that right. Carefully consider the language of each of these bill proposals and the Idaho amendment passed. Then picture a group of lawyers dissecting that language. Then I ask again, will this language guarantee anyone’s right to hunt, trap and fish? It’s no different than the Supreme Court of the United States declaring in Heller v. District of Columbia and NRA v. Chicago, that the Second Amendment is an individual right to keep and bear arms, and yet, what good is that right if you are not allowed to buy a gun in state or bring one in from someplace else or to be able to go outside and use it. Our “right” might be protected, but the ability to exercise it has been taken away.

Maine sportsmen and others, at least some, recognize that fish and game departments, with each passing year, are becoming nothing more than mouthpieces and useful idiots of the environmentalists. With this infiltration of environmentalism into every facet of our being, we are only a short time away from fish and game (i.e. “natural resources”) departments deciding to manage wildlife for non consumptive use. It’s happening! Open your eyes! And then where is the “right” to hunt, fish and trap? Yep! The right still exists but those “natural resource” managers have decided that “nature” can do a better job of managing and controlling ALL wildlife and that “non consumptive” use of a “public resource” will preserve that resource. What we will see is a gradual decrease in licenses or tags available and loss of opportunities.

But nobody gets it. I get emails from a few telling me I’m wrong. Telling me that those other states that have amendments, it’s working real good. Maybe, maybe not! But I can guarantee you, it hasn’t stopped the environmentalists from taking over fish and wildlife management.

I realize that few see it the way that I do and think me wrong, and I might be. But, it is my opinion that without specific wording that mandates the fish and wildlife department to manage wildlife for surplus harvest, I’m afraid the proposed wording will only prove to protect a right without a guarantee that that right can be exercised.

It is unfortunate that it appears that these state proposals for constitutional amendments resembles what we see in news media everyday – one news source (AP, Reuters) prints a story and the whole world accepts it and parrots it. Maine should think these proposals through better and come up with some original text that will do a better job if they really want to keep hunting, fishing and trapping into the future.

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Getting the Best Constitutional Amendment for Right to Hunt, Fish and Trap

V. Paul Reynolds, in his weekly article in the Sun Journal, indicates efforts are underway to introduce legislative action in the Maine Congress for a constitutional amendment aimed at helping to protect the right of Maine residents to hunt, fish and trap. I’ve been calling for this for many years now, as have several others.

I’ve also had a few brief communications with George Smith, outdoor writer and outdoor sports activist, in which he asked me a few questions about the ideas of an amendment. He also has indicated that an effort is underway to propose a constitutional amendment.

If an amendment can even survive the Maine legislature, it has to be the right amendment. It is pointless to jump through all the hoops and spend the time, effort and money to get an amendment passed, if, in the end, the amendment doesn’t do what I believe it is that sportsmen and citizens expect.

But first let’s look at what an amendment will not do. It will not prohibit the right of the people to petition. Some fear such amendments will do that, when in fact, what the amendment, if written properly, will do, is better define what the people of Maine want and expect as it pertains to hunting, fishing and trapping. It would not, if written properly, unconstitutionally prohibit the right to petition.

The three major positives, in my opinion, that can come from a properly written amendment, are explained below.

1. An amendment clearly defines what the Maine people want and expect.

2. An amendment written that acknowledges that Maine residents want game animals for consumptive use, within the regulations for that purpose by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, sends a message to radical animal rights and environmental groups that this means enough to the Maine people that they went to the effort of providing that guarantee in their constitution. This would not end lawsuits, but might deter others. It will not prohibit the right to petition.

3. Of most importance in an amendment must be a clear directive that any official Maine fish and wildlife department must manage game species for surplus harvest. Let me explain. I have been involved with and studied constitutional amendments in other states that have them. An amendment of this kind, if it is going to do as residents want, has to do more that simply recognize a “right” to hunt, trap and fish. Some states have such amendments, some of which state that fish and game departments must manage wildlife to provide “opportunities” to fish, hunt and trap. Stop and think for a moment exactly what that means.

An opportunity to hunt fish and trap, does not result in a harvest, for consumptive use. Herein, lies one of the problems with enacting these amendments. As wildlife agencies nationwide morph more and more towards providing opportunities for bird watching, an amendment without a mandate to manage game for surplus harvest, results in going on a wildlife watching tour and carrying a gun, fishing rod or bag of traps merely for the exercise. It is my opinion that an amendment of this kind is to deter lawsuits, protect a heritage and provide sustenance for those wanting and needing to eat game and to ensure that fish and game departments manage for those purposes, not just “opportunities.”

An amendment with real teeth, that will keep sportsmen happy and continuing to pay the bills for the fish and game departments, must guarantee that a fish and game department will do everything in its power to manage game species for surplus harvest. It is my opinion that anything short of that will not accomplish what I believe sportsmen want and in the long run what people who understand how successful the North American Model of Wildlife Management has been, want as well.

The argument has often been used by animal rights and environmental groups that less than 10% of the people hunt. Combined hunting, trapping and fishing, I’m sure provides a percentage higher than 10%, however, the vast majority of citizens understand what’s at stake and support this plan.

In 2012 Idaho passed an amendment. It did not include the “teethy” mandate for surplus harvest management requirements. However, that amendment easily passed with nearly 80% of the voters indicating they favored such an amendment.

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The Dust Settles Over Maine’s Bear Hunting Referendum

Three strikes and you’re out! Maine has now endured two onslaughts by radical animal rights groups and I don’t need a crystal ball to predict for me that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” There will be a third….at least of some sort.

Already we are beginning to hear the threats and promises of making another stab at ending the so-called “cruelty” to bears. Was the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) too greedy in going after a virtual end to bear hunting? Will they return, only this time attacking trapping and hounding? Incrementally destroying American Heritage is a popular thing. For whatever the reasons, HSUS thought they could win this time. They were wrong…..this time.

It will not end here. No more than it did the last time, 10 years ago. Outdoor sportsmen, writers, wildlife managers and politicians ran scared AND sat on their hands. This cannot happen again. We must show the radicals that we mean business and that referendums aimed at destroying normal and real scientific game management is a waste of time in Maine. How can we do this?

Let’s first look at what we did or didn’t do after the first round of radical, anti-hunting citizen’s initiative. We did nothing to discourage another referendum. We did everything we could to look scared of them. Those are the two biggest issues, and there are more.

When I say we did nothing, I mean there was no real attempts to write or rewrite laws to better protect the ability of the state to manage wildlife for the good of all and not the whims of radical minorities. I’m again suggesting a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to hunt, trap and fish.

Many of you might recall that just over one year ago, Rep. Kenneth Fredette sponsored an amendment posed as a “right to hunt” bill. I wrote about this back then explaining the amendment was incomplete. A right to hunt, trap and fish has no validity when it is not mandated by the same law that fish and game managers are required to manage game populations for surplus harvest. I’ve seen this in other states. With no legislative mandate to provide surplus harvest, wildlife agencies simply are managing their wildlife in numbers too low that any kind of harvest would be detrimental to the species. Because fish and game departments are often operating under “Post-Normal” management practices, they don’t want to see hunting, trapping and fishing.

Maine needs an amendment with teeth aimed at guaranteeing the PEOPLE not the special interest groups.

An amendment is not a sure way to stop referendums and lawsuits but it certainly does a lot to limit and discourage those who hate the rest of us.

Maine cannot afford to continue the same approach as before by always running scared fearing another lawsuit or another referendum. We have seen there has been no end to the lawsuits and no end to referendums. The approach has to be positive and with strength, presenting a management plan that sends the message that Maine will manage wildlife for all and that surplus harvest is the proven and desired method of population control, i.e. the North American Model. We have to let everyone know we are proud of our history in wildlife management and that we will do what we know is right. Lawsuits and referendums will continue but if Maine can show strength and strength in numbers perhaps outsiders will be a bit more discouraged to waste money trying to stop us.

This show of strength must begin in the governor’s office, as it did when Governor LePage got out front on the latest referendum opposing it. This must be done by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner following the lead of the governor.

To continue on with business as usual will not get the job done. Yes, Maine won another round, but when you consider the costs and resources to fight this effort, doesn’t it make sense to thwart it with strength and a strong message before any more lawsuits and referendums appear?

Congratulations to everyone who fought the fight against the radicals at HSUS, et. al. Let’s not get comfortable in our victory just yet. There is more work to be done; work that will make life in Maine the way it should be and provide all of us with more and better time to spend in the outdoors and not debating the rights and wrongs of outdoor sports. Now is the time while all this is fresh in our minds.

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An Initiative to Ban Trapping on Public Lands in Montana

HeritageVanceIt has been brought to my attention that an organization named Footloose Montana, is attempting to gather enough signatures for a citizens’ initiative to ban trapping on public lands. Among many others, the Montana Trappers Association opposes such a restriction.

I was recently sent a copy of an email from Gary Marbut at the Montana Shooting Sports Association. That email was a copy of information, i.e. history, etc. of the current Montana constitutional amendment that was passed in Montana, through citizen initiative in 2004. Below is a copy of the comments submitted to Jon Bennion from the Montana Department of Justice.

As you read through the comments, observe the transformation of language through the movement of an amendment whose intent was to forever protect hunting, fishing and trapping. Forget about what was intended in the original language, the change of language was a direct rewriting of the bill, watered down to mostly a worthless piece of undefined nonsense.

I have written about other state’s attempts at crafting some kind of constitutional amendment to protect hunting, fishing and trapping and by and large, they all end up with basically the same language. One might suspect a conspiracy or perhaps ignorance begets more ignorance as with each attempt at a bill to preserve hunting, fishing and trapping, it’s only a matter of copying the language of other bills that have come before.

I’m not a lawyer and have never played one on television. But, I’m not stupid. I’ve hunted and fished my entire life, so far, and I want to be able to do that until I die and I want to be able to do that with the freedoms and of the same time capacity as I always have. Such nonsensical jumbled up destruction of legal mumbo jumbo only serves to insure “opportunity”. Why not language that requires fish and game departments to manage wildlife for MAXIMUM surplus harvest?

According to the email, the author of the original language of Montana’s proposal for a constitutional amendment, wrote that the state of Montana will manage fish and wildlife to “preserve opportunities for the harvest.” Nothing here actually offers maximums, only minimums. The request is for the state to manage wildlife for opportunity to hunt, fish and trap. In its worst form if the state auctioned off one elk tag per year, under this amendment the state has preserved an opportunity. I suppose some might argue that the wording is plural, therefore at least two tags must be issued to two people.

Once the political crooks got done with the language, very little ended up changing, in my opinion. Perhaps now that some environmentalist totalitarians want to ban trapping on public lands, Montana citizens and their hunting heritage protection constitutional amendment will be tested.

As you can see from the email, the person who crafted the original language, states what the intent was. And we can see what the crooks in the state capital did to intent.

Preservation of harvest heritage. The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights.

That’s the entire amendment. When you trust your own government officials to protect your interests, you end up hanging yourself, going to your grave with “good intentions.” Politicians will never hogtie themselves to responsibility. That is why all bills are crafted in such as way so that when lawyers get done with the language, it may as well have been written in German to begin with.

Here is a copy of the email I received:

Jon Bennion
Montana Department of Justice

Dear Mr. Bennion,

The purpose of this communication is to provide comment concerning the proposed initiative to ban trapping on public lands.

Specifically, we believe that major parts of this proposed initiative are in conflict with the Montana Constitution. We urge that this proposal be returned to proponents with instructions from your office to correct those conflicts.

History

In 1992, the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) proposed a constitutional initiative, specifically CI-62, to put protection for hunting into the Montana Constitution. I, personally, wrote the language of CI-62. The operative language of CI-62 was, “The people of the state retain the right to hunt game animals. This right is vested in the individual citizen and shall forever remain inviolate.” CI-62 failed to gain sufficient signatures to gain ballot status, largely because of the organized opposition to signature-gathering by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

In 2003, MSSA sought to achieve the same result via a legislative referendum. I solicited Rep. Joe Balyeat to submit a bill draft request to the Legislative Services Division for this purpose. I provided Rep. Balyeat with language revised from CI-62, which he submitted to the LSD for bill drafting. The language I provided to Rep. Balyeat was:

” NEW SECTION. Section 1. Article II of The Constitution of the State of Montana is amended by adding a new section 36 that reads:

” Section 36. Preservation of harvest heritage. (1) The harvest of wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state. The heritage does not create a right of trespass on private property and is subject to regulation by law.

” (2) The state shall manage fish and wildlife to preserve opportunities for the harvest of wild fish and wild game animals by the citizens of the state.”

There are two important issues about the language submitted in 2003. First, I intended that this constitutional protection be included in Article II of the Montana Constitution, the Declaration of Rights. Mr. Greg Petesch, the chief legal officer for the LSD preferred placing this new language into Article IX, but assured us that the language would have the same effect there as if it had been incorporated into Article II.

Second, I very deliberately changed the language from CI-62 to “harvest of wild fish and wild game animals” specifically to include fishing and trapping. One of the complaints MSSA had received about the language of CI-62 was from the Montana Trappers Association that the language of CI-62 did not protect trapping. I thought that to be a valid criticism and revised the language submitted to the LSD in 2003, again specifically to sweep trapping into the proposed constitutional protection.

This bill draft was introduced into the 2003 legislative session by Rep. Balyeat as House Bill 306. The introduced language read as:

” NEW SECTION. Section 1. Article IX of The Constitution of the State of Montana is amended by adding a new section 6 that reads:

” Section 6. Preservation of harvest heritage. (1) The harvest of wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state, does not create a right to unauthorized trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights, and, for state residents, may be abridged only by general regulation necessary to further a compelling state interest.

” (2) The state shall manage publicly owned fish and wildlife to preserve opportunities for the harvest of wild fish and wild game animals by the citizens of the state.”

HB 306 passed the House by a vote of 81-17 and the Senate by a vote of 49-1, sufficient majorities for it to be referred to the ballot as a constitutional referendum in the general election of 2004, C-41. The intent for the language of HB 306 to also protect trapping was definitely a part of the discussion of HB 306 in legislative committee and floor sessions.

I recall that C-41 was approved at the ballot in 2004 by the highest percentage of the Montana electorate of any constitutional change ever made in Montana’s history. As MSSA campaigned among the public for the passage of C-41, we certainly portrayed part of the intent for this constitutional change as needed to protect trapping. I believe that to protect trapping is one of the reasons such a substantial majority of the electors voting on the measure voted for C-41.

The language finally passed in HB 306, subsequently approved at the 2004 General Election ballot by the people of Montana, and now in the Montana Constitution at Article IX, Section 7, is: ” Preservation of harvest heritage. The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights.”

Conclusion

As demonstrated above, it was very clearly my intent in drafting the language submitted to the LSD that trapping be included within the protection of C-41. It was the intent of the Legislature to protect trapping with HB 306. And, it was the intent of the people of Montana to give trapping constitutional protection with C-41.

Because Article IX, Section 7 of the Montana Constitution clearly protects trapping of game animals, the proposed initiative must be revised substantially in order to pass constitutional muster, if that can be done at all, before it is allowed to proceed.

Sincerely,

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Maine Clears One Small Hurdle in Effort to Protect Hunting, Fishing and Trapping

The Maine Senate voted 20-15 to accept a bill that is believed to be protecting the heritage of hunting, trapping and fishing by prohibiting citizens’ petitions brought against the fish and game department and making it a “right” to hunt, fish and trap. With the passage of this bill vote, the actual bill will need to wend its way back through both the House and Senate where a 2/3 majority vote is needed. Should this pass both houses, then a vote must go to the citizens by referendum where a 2/3 majority vote is also needed.

LD1303 was a flawed bill from the onset and then an amendment was added. The amendment, “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to provide that laws limiting hunting or fishing may not be proposed through a citizen initiative and that hunting and fishing and the taking of wildlife are a valued part of our heritage that must be forever preserved and regulated for the public good?”, takes away citizens’ right to petition the state and this action, in my opinion, is unconstitutional.

However, the basic proposed constitutional amendment, thought to be an effort that would protect and make it a right of Maine citizens to hunt, fish and trap, is focused on only providing the right and does not mandate the fish and game department to manage game species for surplus harvest. It seems to me the author of this bill is only thinking about environmental and animal rights groups that want to stop hunting, fishing and trapping. The question needs to be asked what good is a constitutional amendment to provide a protected right to hunt, fish and trap if there is no guarantee to make every effort to manage game species in a manner in which it will provide game to actually hunt, fish or trap?

On examination of the history of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), we discover that policies and efforts within that department have been detrimental in ensuring Maine citizen’s have game to hunt, fish to fish for and fur-bearing animals to trap. Nothing in LD1303 ensures that MDIFW will always manage game for harvest opportunities.

I would suppose that if you trust your government and your fish and game department, this would not be of concern. Personally, I find it very troublesome.

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LD1303: Maine’s Constitutional Amendment to Establish Right to Hunt, Trap and Fish

I don’t understand why proposals, such as this one coming out of Maine, is seemingly kept so quiet. It wasn’t until last evening that I discovered on The New England Outdoor Voice message board, via an alert from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine that LD1303 was headed to a work session with the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

LD1303 is a proposed amendment to the Maine Constitution aimed at protecting/establishing and giving Maine citizens a “right” to hunt, trap and fish. The bill summary states:

This resolution proposes to amend the Constitution of Maine to provide that the citizens of Maine have the personal right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, subject to laws and rules that promote wildlife conservation and preserve the future of hunting and fishing, and to provide that public hunting and fishing are a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.

The specifics of the proposed amendment reads as follows:

Constitution, Art. IX, §26 is enacted to read:

Section 26. Personal right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife; limitations. The freedom to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife traditionally taken by hunters and anglers is a valued natural heritage that must be forever preserved for the citizens of this State. Every citizen has the personal right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, using traditional methods, subject only to statutes enacted by the Legislature and to rules adopted by the designated state agency to promote wildlife conservation and management and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing are a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section may not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights or the regulation of commercial activities.

This is not the first time Maine has attempted something along these same lines and somehow it just meets a quiet and sudden death.

When I read the proposal, I immediately went to work sending out a few emails to those on my mailing list and included emails to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) Commissioner Chandler Woodcock, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, David Trahan, Rep. Paul Davis, who sits on the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) and is a cosponsor, and Rep. Kenneth Fredette, the sponsor of the bill. The crux of my email was to encourage these people to amend this proposal.

I think the proposal as it stands is good, except that it is missing vital information; a mandate if you will. I have read and researched over the years many different proposals by states across the country attempting to pass constitutional amendments to protect and/or establish a right to hunt, trap and fish. This proposal does that except that it does not mandate that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will manage all game species for surplus harvest. An amendment can guarantee a citizen a right to hunt, trap and fish but it becomes useless if and when the fish and game department decides it is no longer interested in managing game for consumptive use.

Some may laugh at such a notion but I’m telling you it is happening all over this country. Environmentalists and animal rights groups are working relentlessly to pressure fish and game (wildlife) departments to protect predators and end the heritage of consumptive use of natural game species. This mandate must be included in this amendment. It is on record of some fish and game officials in other states saying they no longer think fish and game departments should be managing wildlife for consumptive use. A mandate by the people could prevent that.

My suggestion for wording might look something like this, bearing in mind I am not a lawyer/lawmaker:

“This addition also mandates that the Maine Legislature, in conjunction with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and commissioner, will manage all game species for surplus harvest.” It might also want to including wording that consumptive use of these natural resources is also part of Maine’s heritage.

Simple, yet effective! In some states that have failed to get this as part of their constitutional amendments, regret not doing so.

It is important to understand, whether this is the intent, in whole or in part, of the sponsors of this bill, that not only is it important to protect and establish this right to hunt, trap and fish, it does go to some help to reduce lawsuits brought against the state aimed at ending or limiting the hunting opportunities of sportsmen. Such an amendment would not put an end to these lawsuits but it usually acts as a deterrent and saves the state money.

I’d also like to remind readers that when now Commissioner Chandler Woodcock was running for governor in Maine in 2006, in an online interview I did with all the candidates in July of that year, I asked each candidate if they would support a constitutional amendment. This is a copy of the exact question I asked:

Question number one – In an effort to protect hunting and fishing heritage, some states have enacted a Constitutional Amendment protecting that heritage. Proponents of an amendment say it will reduce the millions of dollars spent on fighting groups opposed to hunting and that guaranteeing a protected industry will strengthen the Maine economy, to name some reasons. Those opposed to an amendment mostly say it is unnecessary, that existing laws protect hunting and fishing now. Would you support a Constitutional amendment that would guarantee the protection of Maine’s hunting and fishing heritage?

And here is what then candidate Chandler Woodcock wrote:

I would support the constitutional amendment after it was approved by the people of Maine. I would not initiate the process or side with those who initiate the process. That said, there are two issues being addressed: The first is the preservation of the heritage and the second is the rights of the citizens to petition the government. I do not yet believe that the first has created a need to eliminate the second.

Please, contact members of the Joint Standing Committee and express to them that you would like to see an amendment to this proposal to include a mandate for MDIFW to manage game species for surplus harvest.

Please visit this page. Click on each member’s name and you will reach a page that includes contact information. This needs to be done before JSC votes on the proposal. Thank you.

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Why Government Will Never Assure Your Access To Resources for Hunting, Trapping and Fishing

We must somehow learn to ween ourselves from the hind teat of government. Through the indoctrination and brainwashing forcefully imposed on us from birth, we grow up always looking to government for answers to our problems. When is the last time any government agency, law or program rightfully solved anyone’s problems?

Very few states in this Union have any kind of constitutional or statute law that protects the citizens and their right to make use of the natural resources for hunting, trapping and fishing. To my knowledge, the following states have constitutional amendments that supposedly guarantee the citizens of these states the unobstructed right to hunt: Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin. Nearly all of these amendments were voted on and approved by the people.

There has been a push of late for states to enshrine their rights to hunting, trapping and fishing but does such a move actually accomplish what people are led to believe it will, i.e. an actual constitutional protection, a guarantee that this right shall never be infringed?

Hunters in states like Idaho are trying to bet their guarantee on a state code. One of the difficulties not being realized by these outdoor sportsmen is that they are not looking at the entire code. It’s not necessarily that they are cherry picking or taking the code out of context, it is that I believe they are victims of exactly what the authors and signers of the code intended. In other words the code was written intentionally to confuse, while at the same time sounding as though it was accomplishing what some of the voters asked for. This is a common tactic of all untrustworthy politicians and another reason none of them can be trusted. This should also bolster the resolve that we the people should not rely on government to protect us from anything.

In Idaho, this code debate began with the announcement by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) that a “Wildlife Summit” was being planned for August of 2012.

Much of the initial outrage occurred when the sportsmen discovered that many anti-hunting, environmental, and non governmental agencies were invited to the Summit. While I certainly agree that anti-hunting and all environmental groups should have no say in fish and game management because of their agendas, whether as individuals or groups, these people do have a right to attend such a meeting.

There are other issues that surround the intent of the Summit. One of them being that some members of the IDFG Commission seem to be indicating that the goal of the Summit is to rewrite the mission of IDFG.

In an email I received from one Idaho citizen who attended a recent IDFG meeting, I was told that one member of the Commission said that these anti-hunting, non governmental organizations (NGO), have a good representation of Idaho sportsmen. The person told the commissioner that he was trying to change Idaho Code 36-103.

This may actually be true, at least from the perspective of someone working very diligently to preserve the hunting heritage of their state but the bottom line is the codes that are written and what they actually say and just as importantly how they would be interpreted in a court of law, determines everything.

In many of the discussions I have read about this issue, the sportsmen seem intent on tossing out the first half of Idaho Code 36-103 , which reads:

36-103. Wildlife property of state — Preservation. (a) Wildlife Policy. All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.

The thrust of the focus by hunters appears to be directed at: “provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.”

This is done with disregard for the rest of the WORDS written into the code by lawyers. Before we take a bit of a closer look at this law, I’ll post here the entire statute:

36-103. Wildlife property of state — Preservation. (a) Wildlife Policy. All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.
(b) Commission to Administer Policy. Because conditions are changing and in changing affect the preservation, protection, and perpetuation of Idaho wildlife, the methods and means of administering and carrying out the state’s policy must be flexible and dependent on the ascertainment of facts which from time to time exist and fix the needs for regulation and control of fishing, hunting, trapping, and other activity relating to wildlife, and because it is inconvenient and impractical for the legislature of the state of Idaho to administer such policy, it shall be the authority, power and duty of the fish and game commission to administer and carry out the policy of the state in accordance with the provisions of the Idaho fish and game code. The commission is not authorized to change such policy but only to administer it.

Lawyers and a court of law can rip this Code to shreds and resulting rulings will leave us all wondering how that was done. While it’s easy as hunters to focus on those highlighted words above, even though the authors may have intended that to be your focus, all the other words have meaning too. To a lawyer and a judge, multiple meanings.

In brief, Part A above does not guarantee that the IDFG or the state of Idaho must grow game populations so that everyone in Idaho who wants to hunt, trap and fish can do so and for all the species in which seasons are provided. As a matter of fact, the Code says that the only time taking of game will be permitted is when there is enough wildlife to go around. However, that “taking” can be limited by any means the IDFG sees fit.

Part B then goes on to give the fish and game commission the authority to administer this code. As much as all of us would love to believe the fish and game commission doesn’t have the right to “change Idaho Code 36-103”, there’s nothing really in that code that guarantees Idaho citizens a right to hunt, trap and fish. What some members of the commission might be interested in doing by inviting anti-hunting groups to the summit, is to build support to change the mission statement of IDFG.

One would think that with the intent of Idaho Code 36-103, i.e to guarantee Idaho citizens the right to hunt, trap and fish, a step up to a constitutional amendment would be an easy task. That didn’t happen though did it? Perhaps now you are getting a better understanding as to why. Who’s your friend? Who’s on your side?

My intent here was not to dissect Idaho Code but to make a broader statement and support with facts on the ground. The truth is not even a constitutional amendment guarantees outdoor sportsmen any right to hunt, fish or trap. It may be perhaps the best chance at achieving such but is far from a blank check guarantee. And for those states with some kind of statute, like Idaho, no code or statute is protected from change, especially those with an agenda.

Most amendments to constitutions are non specific. In states that have such constitutional changes, the amendment may read that the citizens of that state have a right to hunt, trap and fish and that it may go so far as to require the fish and game departments to “perpetuate” wild game for hunting opportunities for the citizens. This is so non specific it leaves the door wide open to interpretation. Forget the intent of the amendment. Intent means nothing when dealing with law makers with an agenda.

Consider the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Recently in two Supreme Court rulings it was determined that Washington, D.C. (Heller vs. District of Columbia), and Chicago (NRA vs. City of Chicago) could not prohibit citizens from owning a handgun. While the Second Amendment is suppose to guarantee American citizens a right to keep and bear arms, we see that even with a Supreme Court ruling, the citizens of Washington, D.C. and Chicago do not have a right to keep and bear arms as they wish.

The reality of it is, we deal with many things most of us are completely unaware of. In our reliance on government to protect us, we refuse to believe that our constitutions and laws will not protect us and do what we have been told they will do. Even Supreme Court rulings are not enough to force cities to comply. They would rather take their chances in more courts with more lawsuits because that’s where their friends are. Surely if the rulings of the Supreme Court mean nothing to the governments of local cities, why should we rest that our state governments care one way or the other about our rights to hunt, trap and fish?

And while you are sleeping, changes to our laws are taking place that we know nothing about. For instance, in Maine, I was researching to find out what the state statutes were regarding trapping. You can find the details here, but what I discovered was that during a federally mandated “recodification” process, your laws can and are being changed and you may not know it.

We are told by our government that recodification of all states’ laws will be done every ten years. The intent of this action is supposed to be to clear up redundancies and other issues that make deciphering and interpreting the laws clearer and easier. What I discovered was someone took this opportunity to rewrite the laws the way they wanted them done. BTW, a new round of recodification is supposed to take place in 2013. Pay attention!

With a legislature either deaf and dumb to the responsibilities of the job or in on the illegal action, it is a snap to pass these recodified laws. After all, it’s just a housekeeping measure, right?

We must stop depending on government for anything. They cannot be trusted nor will they protect you and I from anything. To stop this would be monumental because it would require a complete makeover that begins in our schools and homes. At the ballot box we can work harder at getting the right people elected but it doesn’t end there. We need watch dog groups that will follow everything each law maker does and make sure the public knows and understands. This of course will never happen because there aren’t enough people who care.

Tom Remington

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