The Maine Constitution will not be amended to include a right to hunt and fish. This proposed Constitutional amendment was championed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the National Rifle Association.
At a work session on the proposed amendment last Thursday, the legislature’s IFW Committee rejected the amendment by a vote of 9 to 3. The amendment has no chance of getting the 2/3 vote needed in the House and Senate in order to get onto a ballot for a vote by the people of Maine.
Senator Mike Carpenter expressed his surprise that neither SAM nor the NRA attended the work session on the bill which was sponsored by Representative Steve Wood at the request of SAM.
The public hearing on the bill was held last year and the bill was carried over to the current session. At the public hearing three representatives, Wood, Ward, and Tuell, spoke in favor of the bill along with SAM, the NRA, and the Maine Professional Guides Association.
Opponents included the Humane Society, Wildwatch Maine, and the Maine Municipal Association.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife testified neither for nor against the bill, saying that “the department appreciates the genuine intention of this bill. However, we urge careful consideration of the potential impacts on the current privileges enjoyed by all law-abiding sportsmen and women. There is a distinct difference between a privilege and a right.”
At the work session last week, it was noted that the amendment to the Constitution would not prohibit ballot measure initiatives on hunting fishing and trapping issues.
The IFW Committee had a very thoughtful discussion about the issue expressing concerns about the impact on DIFW’s management of the state’s wildlife and fisheries resources.
Rep. Bob Duchesne, the House chair of the IFW Committee, stated that the majority of the committee agrees that we do have the right to hunt and fish. But he also expressed my concern that voters might reject the amendment which would have a seriously negative impact. He was also concerned about the millions of dollars it might take to advocate for the initiative. And he noted that there’s a lot of confusion about the actual impact of the legislation on our hunting and fishing methods and governance. Duchesne said, “I do not want to put our opportunities to hunt and fish in jeopardy.”
DIFW weighed in, calling the measure too complex.
Sen. Carpenter said he thought the amendment could impact all the decisions by DIFW, and said he didn’t see any way the amendment could get a two thirds vote in the Senate.
It must be noted that 21 states have something in their constitutions about the rights and opportunities to hunt, fish, and/or trap. The language and protections vary significantly. In two other states the right to fish is guaranteed in the Constitution.
The constitutional amendment will now proceed to the House and Senate, where I predict it will not achieve the 2/3 full required.