Hunters move against rights again
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1998:
BOISE––Idaho Wildlife Council
president Don Clower told media in late
November that he is already fundraising in
support of an initiative to disenfranchise blood
sports opponents, similar to the one adopted
on November 3 in Utah.
Utah Proposition 5 amended the
state constitution to require that future initiatives
pertaining to wildlife must be approved
by at least two-thirds of the voters, rather than
a simple majority.
Anticipating support from around a
dozen national pro-gun, pro-hunting, and
pro-trapping organizations, Clower reportedly
hopes to place the Idaho initiative on the 2000
For some participants, a warm-up
campaign may be a drive currently underway
to fund a lawsuit seeking to oblige the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and National
Marine Fisheries Service to get rid of growing
populations of Caspian terns and double-crested
cormorants on artificial islands created by
Army Corps of Engineers dredging near the
mouth of the Columbia River. The Northwest
Sport Fishing Industry Association and Idaho
Salmon and Steelhead Unlimited contend that
the birds are depleting fish stocks by eating as
many as 17 million smolts per year.
In effect, the blood sports organizations
contend that the birds rather than overfishing,
hydroelectric dams, and silt from
logging are responsible for declining catches
and restricted fishing seasons.
The issue is not directly related to
so-called “hunters’ rights,” but does appear to
be a between-elections rallying point for
hook-and-bullet organizers, with strong
appeal to blue-collar Idahoans, who like to
hunt and fish but tend to work in resourcebased
The Utah campaign
Opponents of Utah Proposition 5
have pledged to fight it in court. They will
probably have to take it to the federal level,
however, to enjoy success.
In a preliminary round, Utah district
judge Stephen Henriod on October 29
dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Utah
Wildlife Board brought by The American
Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the
Humane Society of Utah, the Predator
Education Fund, the High Uintahs
Preservation Council, and the Utah Society of
The suit contended that the Wildlife
Board overstepped its authority on September
23 by asking voters to support Proposition 5;
overstepped it again on September 25 with a
purported disclaimer of the September 23
action; and repeated the alleged offense a
third time by formally endorsing the proposition
in the Utah Voters Guide.
The Henriod verdict in effect said
that the Wildlife Board was under no obligation
to maintain impartiality.
The Utah Division of Wildlife also
appeared eager to curry voter favor.
A week before the voting, Division
biologists poisoned the Mantua Reservoir,
north of Brigham City, to wipe out native
Utah chub, in favor of introduced trout and
bass, who will be stocked later. The Division
has poisoned native fish to benefit introduced
trophy species in at least seven bodies of
water since 1990.
But Division law enforcement officials
waited until a day after the election to
decry what they called the most intense season
of poaching they had seen in 25 years.
Cocky hunters on the rampage
caused the Davis County Commission to ban
hunting in a 100-acre area between Kaysville
and Layton, where waterfowlers recently hit a
horse with shotgun pellets, have repeatedly
peppered homes, and in October frightened
children who were awaiting a schoolbus.
So far, no “hunters’ rights” initiative
has been rejected by the voters of any
state––but hunting advocates have not proposed
such an initiative in any state where
voters have approved hunting restrictions.
As expected, 76% of the
Minneapolis electorate on November 3
approved an amendment to the state constitution
which states that “hunting and fishing and
the taking of game and fish are a valued part
of our heritage and shall forever be preserved
for the people.”
Alabama voters approved a similar
state constitutional amendment in 1996, and
Michigan voters were persuaded to abolish
their ability to regulate wildlife issues by referendum.
But pro-hunting strategists see an
ever-narrowing window of opportunity to get
such measures adopted, before changing public
attitudes make them both hard to pass and
easily reversed––especially in states with
growing urban and educated populations, and
declining rural influence.
Thus using a temporary majority to
disenfranchise anything less than overwhelming
opposition to hunting looks increasingly
attractive to the hunting establishment.
Already, support for hunting is significantly
less than support for fishing, even
in strongly pro-hunting states––such as
A statewide poll sponsored by the
Minneapolis Star Tribune and KMSP-TV,
published on October 18, discovered that
78% of Minnesotans “believe fishing is an
important part of being a Minnesotan,” but
only 52% believe the same of hunting; 89%
believe fishing is ethical, while 79% think
hunting is; and 71% are strong in their belief
that fishing is ethical, but just 57% equally
strongly support hunting.
Further, the apparently lopsidedly
favorable endorsements of both fishing and
hunting may weaken soon: 72% of
Minnesotans said in 1992 that hunting is “a
natural activity for people,” against only 64%
in 1998. Sixty-one percent of respondents
went fishing in 1959; only 47% went in 1998.
Hunting participation by Minnesotans has fallen
from 22% in 1965 to 18% in 1998.
Both participation in hunting and
fishing and general endorsement of blood
sports were lowest in the youngest age groups
surveyed, including young families.