Friday, October 26, 2012

Proposed amendment may not perform as advertised

Idahoans have not read or heard enough debate on the ramifications of H.J.R. 2 as amended—the proposed constitutional amendment whose stated purpose is to protect the right to hunt, fish and trap—to cast an informed vote.

It doesn’t matter if a voter is for or against pursuing game animals. There’s simply not enough information out there to explain the ramifications of the amendment if it passes.

It may or may not perform as advertised. Without some in-depth discussion about its effects on the law and the state’s ability to manage wildlife, we risk enshrining a provision in the state constitution that could backfire on even the most ardent supporters of hunting, fishing and trapping. Supporters could find that the amendment carries unhappy unintended consequences that may surface down the line. There’s currently no way to know and information is scanty.

Even so, the Idaho Legislature approved the ballot measure and the Idaho Fish and Game Commission supports it as well.

Constitutional scholar David Adler, who heads the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, compared the amendment to adding a right to smoke or a right to ride a bicycle.

On its face, the measure would seem to be a no-brainer in a state where hunting and fishing are deeply rooted in family and community traditions, a state loved by Ernest Hemingway because of those outdoor traditions. Even in Idaho, however, many people have mixed feelings about trapping.

The amendment is rooted in fears that as the state grows city folk with no connection to these traditions will become politically dominant, and opponents may gain enough support to outlaw them or regulate them out of existence. It’s rooted in the fact that young people today are more likely to try to knock out green pigs in Angry Birds, a popular web game, than to learn the art of pursuing wild game. It’s also being driven by super-heated rhetoric from national animal rights groups that decry all forms of game hunting.

Whether the fears are well-founded is arguable. Whether the amendment will affect the state’s ability to base game management on science instead of politics is also unknown. In the face of the unknowns, the conservative move for voters is to vote no.

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