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AZ Ballot Measure Would Put Hunting, Fishing Rights in Constitution

August 12, 2010

PHOENIX, Ariz. - A measure on the Arizona ballot in November would make hunting and fishing a constitutional right. One section of it would amend state law to put the legislature in charge of managing the state's wildlife, with hunting and fishing the preferred management methods.

As a result, says Sandy Bahr, director, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, scientific wildlife management would be replaced with politics - something early Arizona hunters tried to avoid.

"That's why they worked to establish the Game and Fish Commission back in 1929: to insulate the Game and Fish Department and remove wildlife management from some of the day-to-day politics."

Supporters of the amendment concede there is no current threat to hunting or fishing in Arizona, but say they want to ensure access to state lands and other open space in the future.

Animal Defense League of Arizona president Stephanie Nichols-Young points out that giving hunting top priority as a wildlife management strategy could outlaw some widely-accepted current Game and Fish practices.

"Sometimes not allowing hunting is a better management tool. If this passes, what happens when they, say, close an area to hunting, which is something they do commonly? That is a choice the Game and Fish Commission makes. Arguably, this law could prevent them from doing that."

While knowledge of wildlife issues is a requirement for members of the Game and Fish Commission, Bahr says it would be a mistake to transfer the authority to regulate hunting and fishing exclusively to state lawmakers.

"There are very few legislators who have much knowledge, or even concern, about wildlife. The idea that they would be setting the bag limits (how many of a species can be taken in a particular season) is just ludicrous."

Bahr calls the proposed constitutional amendment, which was placed on the ballot by the legislature, a "power grab" by lawmakers. The Game and Fish Department is currently part of the executive branch of state government.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ