Should Hunting And Fishing Rights Have Constitutional Protections?

Voters in Utah may have a chance to vote on a legislative message bill that would change the state constitution. The resolution would enact a provision relating to the individual right of the people of Utah to hunt and fish.

Amending Utah’s constitution requires two-thirds support from the legislature and then the initiative must be approved by citizens through a ballot measure. Rep. Casey Snider, Republican from Paradise, sponsored House Joint Resolution 15. He says the bill is less about wildlife management and more about protecting the activities of hunting and fishing for the future.

“It’s actually about maintaining and protecting that use as the primary tool for wild conservation and a traditional use. What I’m proposing in that piece of legislation is actually an amendment to the state constitution which would allow the right to hunt and fish to be forever protected for the public good and a system with whatever rules or regulations are prescribed by the division of wildlife resources.”

He says the bill isn’t meant to alter current management practices under the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Casey feels as Utah becomes more urban, the traditions allowing citizens to hunt, and fish could be whittled away.

Legislators who spoke against the joint resolution expressed concerns that it could supersede land use ordinances established by cities or counties. It was also criticized as more government interference and oversight.  House District 27 Rep. Brian King, a Democrat from Salt Lake whose district includes Summit Park, says he worries about the effect it could have on future legislatures. He says he believes the right to hunt and fish is a valued part of Utah’s heritage and should be preserved.

“The responsibilities that come with those rights. And the responsibilities that I’m stuck with in connection with this particular right of hunting and fishing is the responsibility to be good stewards for this earth that we live on, to make sure that our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and on down the line will have the same access to the beautiful resources that are here in the state of Utah. To nature, to trees that thrive, to spaces that are peaceful and that give us insight into the greater nature of our existence, that those will continue into the future.”

Casey says he is confident the bill will pass at the ballot box but doesn’t hold the same confidence in future voters to preserve the right of Utahns to hunt and fish as part of their heritage.

“Again, this bill is not meant to prohibit or alter where we are today. It’s looking down the road where we may unfortunately come and that is its direction and I believe that the provisions and the latitude that they give will cover the concerns raised.”

Nearly 7000 people hold a hunting and or fishing license in Summit County and a little over 6000 in Wasatch County.

A link to the house joint resolution on hunting and fishing can be found on KPCW.org.