Constitutional amendment would ensure the right to hunt and fish

Republican state senators eager to put measure on ballot in November 2018

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Lobbyists Anthony Roulette of the National Rifle Associationand Dennis Allenof the N.C. Pistol and Rifle Associationwalk past a black bear mount at the Legislative Building in Raleigh on June 6. Outdoors

RALEIGH — North Carolina could soon be adding a new amendment to its state constitution. Sens. Danny Britt (R-Robeson), Andrew Brock (R-Davie) and Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) filed legislation Tuesday that would let voters in the November 2018 election decide whether to amend the North Carolina Constitution to ensure citizens’ right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife. Twenty-one other states currently include this right in their constitutions.”This constitutional amendment will protect for future generations the hunting and fishing rights that have always been part of our heritage and way of life — and it will ensure North Carolina remains a sportsman’s paradise,” said the Republican co-sponsors in a joint statement.Hunting and fishing are integral parts of North Carolina’s heritage, economy and conservation efforts. According to the most recent data available, sportsmen and women spent $2.3 billion on hunting and fishing in North Carolina in 2011, generating $249 million in revenue and supporting more than 35,000 local jobs. The state issued 1.87 million hunting and fishing licenses last year.However, advocates say that the heritage industry is slowly declining due to overregulation and a lack of awareness; most worrisome being that children are glued to electronics instead of getting outside.”Hunting, by any means, introduces kids to the outdoors,” said Kevin Myers with the North Carolina Trappers Association. “I’m introducing my grandkids to the outdoors. Hunting, fishing and trapping is part of our life. It keeps us grounded.”Frank Rowher, president and chief scientist for Delta Waterfowl, said some N.C. laws hinder access to the sport, including the state’s current Sunday hunting law that prohibits hunting on public lands and restricts hunting on private lands before 12:30 p.m. on the first day of the week.”Let’s face it, there are an awful lot of folks who work and kids who go to school Monday through Friday, and then you take away a whole day on the weekend — it’s a tough thing,” said Rowher, who works with lawmakers across the U.S. and Canada to help conserve waterfowl populations and promote public hunting rights.The amendment is also supported by the National Rifle Association, East Carolina Houndsmen Alliance and the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, among others.”Safeguarding North Carolina’s outdoor heritage for future generations is of the utmost importance,” said NASCAR owner and sportsman activist Richard Childress. “This measure will ensure that the economic, cultural and conservation benefits of our time-honored traditions of hunting and angling are protected in perpetuity.”Brock, who introduced a similar bill last session, said he thinks there is enough grassroots support and attention to the issue this year to help pass it out of both legislative chambers. He also believes putting the issue in front of voters in 2018 is the best timing.”It’s a blue moon election, there isn’t much going on that you’ll have to go through pages and pages to find the amendment at the bottom of the ballot,” said Brock, who began hunting with his father when he was a child.Lawmakers say that enshrining the right into the constitution would restrict future legislative bodies from going too far on proposed legislation that affects hunters, fishers and trappers — a community they say are both enjoying their 2nd Amendment rights and taking part in the conservation of wildlife.”There is no greater love for wildlife than an outdoorsman,” said Myers, a trapper and fur tradesman from Salisbury. “You can talk about all the PETA people, animal rights activists, but nobody loves wildlife more than hunters and fishers.”