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OPINION

More States Should Adopt Right to Hunt and Fish Amendments

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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ROBERT F. BUKATY

Florida could soon add a right to hunt and fish amendment to its state constitution. 

A joint resolution, presented as House Joint Resolution 1157 and Senate Joint Resolution 1234, is currently being deliberated in the state legislature. The provision, if passed, would create Section 28 to Article I of Florida's constitution to "preserve in perpetuity hunting and fishing as a public right." 

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If approved by both legislative chambers, it would go before Florida voters as a ballot measure in the 2024 election.

Although home to world-class sportfishing and hunting opportunities, the Sunshine State doesn't boast this protection. Lawmakers, however, recognize that anti-hunting activists aligned with Democratic-backed environmental groups could threaten Florida's outdoor heritage. 

One of the sponsors, State Representative Lauren Melo (R-District 82), believes the resolution is timely. 

"As a native Floridian, growing up hunting and fishing, I couldn't be more passionate about this great legislation that will preserve our rights for generations to come," Melo said in a statement to Townhall.com. "With the passage of this bill, my family and all of Florida will continue to enjoy our freedoms in the great state of Florida!" 

Melo added, "This is so much more than just reporting about the billions of dollars sportsmen contribute annually to Florida's economy. This is about allowing us to continue traditions that have been respected and valued for hundreds of years. Based on a study dating back to 2017, about 74% of gun owners say the right to own guns is essential to their sense of freedom—although, today, sportsmen are being banned or censored on social media for posting a family picture of a harvest." 

"Currently, states are trying to pass ballot initiatives to ban and criminalize fishing and hunting. The passage of this bill will ensure that it doesn't happen in Florida. As the daughter of an avid sportsman, I had the blessing to grow up with the value of these traditions. I believe our future generations deserve and will benefit greatly from the same opportunities."

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This amendment would affirm Florida's sportsmen heritage. How so? Four million licensed resident and non-resident anglers contribute $13.8 billion annually, while 273,000 licensed and non-resident hunters spend $1.3 billion on hunting purchases.

Florida isn't the first state weighing this measure. Twenty-three states have them. They provide safeguards for most hunting and fishing activities but sometimes don't encompass activities like trapping. Much to the chagrin of opponents, however, these amendments don't waive sporting license or permit fees. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) cites the following reasons behind these amendments: "Increasing urbanization, decreased habitat, declining numbers of sportsmen, and more restrictions on hunting are common factors in the quest to assert the right to hunt and fish in a state's most basic and difficult-to-amend document." 

These efforts typically enjoy bipartisan support but lately have been opposed by Democratic-aligned environmental interest groups.

Before North Carolina adopted its amendment in 2018, far-Left groups—specifically the National Education Association and Open Society Policy Center, Inc.— poured in money to defeat it.

For instance, opposition to these amendments today has been deemed "unnecessary" by the Sierra Club. Even in conservative Utah, which passed Constitutional Amendment E in 2020, there was opposition from Republicans like State Representative Marsha Judkins. She downplayed threats to fishing and hunting like this: "Nobody is threatening our right to hunt and fish. Any threat is hypothetical or imaginary."

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Nevertheless, there are pending bills to protect fishing and hunting in the following states: IowaMissouriOregon, and West VirginiaIn addition, Montana intends to strengthen its existing amendment to include protections for trapping. 

Make no mistake: Threats to these American pastimes are more pervasive now than ever. Radical preservationists have engaged in hunter harassment and beefed up efforts to reimagine wildlife agencies to exclude sporting activities that predominantly fund conservation projects. 

As I often write here at Townhall, preservationists are proactively plotting the destruction of actual conservation practices like fishing and hunting.

Outdoor Life's Andrew McKean first reported on Wildlife for All, a new group behind these efforts. He described the group in this manner, writing, "This movement, championed by a small but influential group based in New Mexico called Wildlife For All, borrows from several allies, including animal-rights, rewilding, and deep ecology campaigns, few adherents of which have previously been involved in the day-to-day business of fish-and-game management."

Last fall, I joined McKean in investigating their nefarious efforts to decouple hunters and anglers from wildlife management decisions. And it looks like MeatEater recently caught on too.

"Wildlife for All, an environmental nonprofit, most clearly articulates the ideas that underwrite these efforts," the outlet explained. "Organized by current and former employees of the Humane Society, the Sierra Club, Wildearth Guardians, Animal & Earth Advocates, and Project Coyote (among others), Wildlife for All describes the current system of wildlife management as "outdated."

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In addition to media campaigns and remaking wildlife agencies, the Biden administration banned lead usage on national wildlife refuges for future openings and has closed off 60 million public land acres to hunting in Alaska. Sadly, Republicans aren't immune here, either. Some pushed the flawed RETURN Act last year to undermine Pittman-Robertson funding. 

Present threats to fishing and hunting aren't exaggerated. Therefore, these constitutional amendments can act as bulwarks against these attacks. 

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