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Eye On Boise

Right to hunt, fish and trap amendment on ballot stirs debate

Idaho has a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to enshrine a right to hunt, fish and trap in the state Constitution - a concept that likely would generate virtually no opposition in the outdoorsy state but for the specific inclusion of trapping. Thirteen other states have passed right-to-hunt-and-fish amendments, all but one of them in the past 15 years; three others besides Idaho - Kentucky, Nebraska and Wyoming - are considering them in November. But only five states have specifically protected the right to trap.

Click here to read my full story from Sunday's Spokesman-Review, which explores the debate over trapping in Idaho; click below for a letter from a reader who maintains the wording of the amendment itself raises concerns for hunters, aside from the trapping issue.

Betsy - I just read your Sunday article on the proposed Constitutional amendment on hunting, fishing and trapping in Idaho.  Although the controversy over trapping is certainly worth discussing, I think you may have missed a bigger issue about this proposal, and that is the threat this amendment poses to habitat.  The reaction of most hunters and fishermen will be to automatically support the proposed amendment based on the first part that reads "..., to provide that 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;"  However, it's the additional language in the proposal that is a threat to every Idahoans ability to hunt and fish.  
The next part reads "to provide that public hunting, fishing and trapping of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing wildlife".  Regulating harvest is certainly a critical part of wildlife management, but regulations mean nothing if there isn't adequate habitat to support wildlife and fish populations.  Let's say critical big game winter range is threatened by a mega housing development on the Boise front range.  This section of the Constitutional amendment could be interpreted by some to imply that culling the herd would be a priority over preserving critical wildlife habitat.
Of even more concern is the section that reads "shall not affect rights to divert, appropriate and use water, or establish any minimum amount of water in any water body".  Why is this even in this amendment?  My Constitutional right to fish or hunt is protected, but that means nothing if the stream is dry or the wetland has been drained.  Many streams and rivers in southern Idaho are already so over appropriated with water rights that entire sections dry up each year (including the Snake River).  This section gives Constitutional protection to whoever wants to use water for consumptive uses at the expense of the fish and wildlife that water now supports.   
America is a model for wildlife conservation and management because of the excise taxes on hunting and fishing (PR and DJ) that have generated billions of dollars for wildlife and fisheries management, but also because a few enlightened people in our nations history (Teddy Roosevelt for one) understood the value of habitat for preserving abundant fish and wildlife populations.  As a passionate hunter and fishermen, I want that opportunity and privilege protected, but not if it means changing the Idaho Constitution to make it even more difficult to protect critical habitat.  Unfortunately, whoever wrote this legislation had something else in mind than protecting your right to hunt and fish.  I intend to vote NO on H.J.R. 2aa.
Ned Horner
7553 S. Greensferry RD
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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