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Hunting Amendment Tabled Proposal Would Change Constitution To Prevent Initiatives On Hunting

Hunting groups, still stinging from an initiative last year that attempted to ban certain types of bear hunting, want to amend Idaho’s Constitution.

But a proposal to make it impossible for citizen initiatives to regulate hunting will have to wait.

State Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Hayden - who got the constitutional amendment introduced in the Legislature - said Thursday he is withdrawing it, for now, because “there was a big hole in it.”

The measure inadvertently left out specific references to big game species, Alltus said.

However, Don Clower, chairman of the Idaho Wildlife Council, said that language was left out on purpose and only a few dissident hunting groups wanted it included.

Alltus said if the groups come back with a better version of the bill, he might sponsor it again.

The initiative that stirred so much controversy last November would have banned the use of bait to hunt black bears, eliminated the spring bear season and disallowed the use of hounds in hunting black bears.

Alltus said it doesn’t bother him that his district’s voters didn’t necessarily side with the groups pushing for the amendment.

“I’m just the messenger,” he said. “I just helped someone get something introduced. I wasn’t in on the drafting.

“All this does is give the people the right to put in the Constitution that we want the experts deciding instead of 30-second sound bites.”

Voters in Alltus’ district supported the anti-bear-baiting initiative. Kootenai County voters favored it 20,376 to 18,984, or 52 percent in support.

Alltus noted that voters statewide opposed the initiative, which garnered only 40 percent of the vote after a nasty, big-bucks campaign on both sides.

“I think they were saying we should let the experts decide on these things,” he said.

The measure Alltus introduced, House Joint Resolution 2, would have proposed an amendment to the Idaho Constitution declaring that only the appropriate executive agency, with regulation by the Legislature, could establish hunting, fishing and trapping season dates or methods of killing.

Placing that language in the constitution would prevent citizen initiatives from addressing such issues.

To pass, a constitutional amendment must receive a two-thirds favorable vote in each house of the Legislature, then win a majority of votes in the next general election.

Lynn Fritchman, who headed the unsuccessful campaign for the initiative, denounced the legislation as an “arrogant, unprincipled and outrageous attack on our constitutional rights.”

But Clower, of the Idaho Wildlife Council, said, “I don’t think the initiative process was ever meant to manage administrative rules and regulations. Managing wildlife is a complex issue, and it’s very volatile.”

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