This November Utah voters are tasked with determining if hunting and fishing should be protected by state laws as a constitutional right.
Presidential candidates will not be the only decision presented to Utahns on this year’s ballot. Among the considerations is Amendment E, a proposed addition to the state’s constitution acting to solidify hunting and fishing as individual rights for residents.
Utah’s diverse mountains and valleys are home to a variety of fish and wildlife making the activities deeply ingrained in the state’s culture.
“Hunting and fishing has always been a critical component of our state,” the amendment’s chief sponsor, Rep. Casey Snider R-Paradise, said in his supporting arguments. “It’s a part of who we are.”
Although hunting and fishing on Utah’s more than 35 million acres of public land is not currently under attack, Rep. Snider explained that, “This bill is not only about protecting who we are, but preserving who we are going forward.”
If passed, the amendment will preserve hunting and fishing as a constitutional right and permit the use of traditional harvesting methods subject to state regulation and management. It will also preserve the activities as a primary means of regulating wildlife numbers.
Hunting and fishing are currently used in wildlife management and while the bill would maintain this, it will not affect property and trespassing laws nor interfere with the state’s authority to manage its lands and natural resources.
While in support of protecting hunting and fishing in the state, the congresswomen noted the lack of current and expression of only “hypothetical” threats to the practices.
Their written arguments continue by explaining concerns about positioning hunting and fishing as a right, saying, “…if we do not draw a line between rights that are fundamental and privileges that extend from those rights, we will no longer be able to tell the difference.”
Despite the opposition, a landslide 61-9 vote on Feb. 28 helped the bill sail through the House. In similar fashion, the Senate approved the measure with minor adjustments in a 21-7 vote on March 10.
The amendment officially claimed its place on the 2020 ballot after House approval of the Senate’s proposed changes in a 59-11 vote on March 11.
On the ballot Utah voters will see Amendment E as presenting this question:
“Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to: preserve the individual right to hunt and to fish, including the right to use traditional hunting and fishing methods subject to certain regulation; and establish public hunting and fishing as the preferred way of managing and controlling wildlife?”
If approved on Nov.r 3, the amendment will be enacted on Jan. 1, 2021. Upon approval, Utah would join more than 20 other states already preserving hunting and fishing as a constitutional right.
Story by: Mikyla Bagley
Photos courtesy of Alisha Maughan