Voters will Consider Controversial “Right to Hunt and Fish” on Election Day 2016

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Public Question #1 will present Indiana voters on election day — November 8, 2016 — with a seemingly benign question of whether to enshrine a fundamental right to “hunt, fish, and harvest game” in our state constitution. This is a dangerous thing to do. Here’s why:

First, the public’s ability to hunt and fish in Indiana is already considered a protected privilege for all Hoosiers under the public trust doctrine. In other words, amending the constitution to create a fundamentally protected right to hunt and fish is completely unnecessary. More importantly, creating such a right could have serious, unintended consequences for the State’s ability to protect its fish and wildlife including threatened and endangered species.

Also problematic, constitutionally protected rights are extremely hard to regulate. While Public Question #1 includes language that appears to protect existing regulations, it likely does not. That’s because, the new right to hunt and fish will be on par with other sacred rights such as freedoms of speech and religion and the right to vote. To regulate an activity with this heightened protection will require the government to prove that its existing laws do not place a material burden on the new right thereby subjecting existing regulations to constitutional challenge. Moreover, this sacred protection will make it much more difficult to pass any new laws and regulations to safeguard fish and wildlife — which is what proponents of the measure intend.

A final concern is the possibility that private property rights could be threatened by those seeking to open private lands to hunting and fishing including canned hunting, or encourage violations of season and bag limits for fish and wildlife, and embolden poachers and those who trade in endangered species if violators believe courts will be reluctant to uphold fish and wildlife laws and regulations.

For more information about this dangerous measure, read this interview with our Senior Staff Attorney as well as our legal analysis.

Please make sure to VOTE NO to Public Question 1 on Tuesday, November 8th!