Could “right to hunt, trap, fish” initiative in Idaho be used to harm habitat?

An article in the Idaho Statesman today says some opponents of the the proposed Idaho constitutional amendment to make trapping, fishing and hunting protected rights in Idaho could be used to harm wildlife habitat in Idaho, especially water.

Ned Horner, who is the retired Idaho Fish and Game fish manager for northern Idaho, told reporter Rocky Barker “that language added at the request of the Idaho Water User’s Association — it says the amendment shall not “establish any minimum amount of water in any water body” — may prevent the state from keeping water in rivers and lakes for fish.” See the Statesman article.

The relevant part of the measure is this:  “that public hunting, fishing and trapping of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing wildlife; and to provide that the rights set forth do not create a right to trespass on private property, shall not affect rights to divert, appropriate and use water, or establish any minimum amount of water in any water body, shall not lead to a diminution of other private rights . . .” [boldface ours].

Idaho’s Deputy Attorney-General Steve Strack says this doesn’t prevent Idaho legislature from passing a law preserving streamflow, only that the amendment does not itself change any water laws or regulations.

Regarding the part that makes hunting, fishing and trapping a preferred way of managing wildlife, we see it is possible a lawsuit could be brought against any Fish and Game rules that close seasons or prohibit hunting, etc. of any species of wildlife.

Many assume that Idaho will pass this measure given the relative popularity of hunting and fishing. In addition since 1996, 12 states have passed similar measures, but they did not include trapping, which is less popular. Most recently Arizona, a state noted for its conservatism, rejected a constitutional amendment to give rights to hunting and fishing (not trapping).  In 2010, 56.5% voted against the Arizona measure for which about half the funding came from the National Rifle Association.

In addition to Idaho, this year voters in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming are facing amendments like Idaho. Nebraska and Kentucky’s measure does not including trapping. The Nebraska and Kentucky measures are shorter than Idaho’s. Nebraska’s reads: “A vote FOR this constitutional amendment would set forth a constitutional right to hunt, to fish, and to harvest wildlife and would designate public hunting, fishing, and harvesting of wildlife as a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. The right set forth by this constitutional amendment would be subject to certain laws, rules, and regulations, and this constitutional amendment would not be construed to modify current laws relating to trespass or property right laws or constitutional provisions pertaining to water.”

All four measures have many of the same phrases, showing the measures were written from a template outside the states.

Trapping is an activity of far few people than hunting and fishing, and probably has less support among the public. Some think the inclusion of trapping could drag the measures down. The photo of the northern Idaho man grinning in front of the wolf in the blood stained snow went viral on the web in a negative way last winter.




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  1. birdpond Avatar

    This scares the heck out of me – To leave MAN as the sole ‘controlling means’ in nature implies intent to eliminate natural predators and natural systems in favor of artificial and biologically impoverished ‘hunting reserves’ – VERY VERY DANGEROUS LAWS.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Yes! Totally agree with you there, Birdpond!

  2. rick Avatar

    “that public hunting, fishing and trapping of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing wildlife”.
    I will vote against HJR-2. What, when and where trappers kill animals needs to be challenged. This amendment would make that difficult. Most trappers are of a different mentality. The issue of animals suffering is not high on their list of priorities.

    1. rork Avatar

      Even if trapping weren’t on there, saying hunting is preferred just cause I say it is, sounds like bad lawmaking.
      To be utterly ridiculous: don’t kill those wonderful sea-lamprey, we should manage them by increased angling pressure.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        See me article today about hunting non-native species.

  3. mikepost Avatar

    This is the very predictable thing that happens when the hunting population feels that it must counter the extremist positions of many of the anti-hunting groups. That pendulum never stops in the middle. Unfortunately we have become a country of polarized extremists instead of the moderate centrists that could find ways to agree to disagree and find common ground.

  4. Alan Gregory Avatar

    I just returned home to Vermont after two weeks in Boise, visiting my mother, sister and brother. I was astounded again at the sprawl development that continues to chew up wildlife habitat, both eastward toward Mountain Home and westward toward Nampa, Caldwell and Oregon. This is the issue that caring, forward thinking Americans ought to be focused on.

  5. Salle Avatar

    Well, it passed in Idaho by nearly 2:1.

  6. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    “The amendment was also vetted by the Idaho Attorney General and worded in a way that enables lawmakers and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to continue managing hunting and fishing, to set bag limits and regulations and to modify how, where and when trapping can be used as a tool for taking wildlife.”

    Silver lining – will they still have to waste congressional time on that Sportsmen’s Act if most states have a constitutional right to hunt, fish and trap? How many laws do they need?

  7. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    I have lost the place where this comment should go but here is a connection to some osprey pictures. Osprey often catch more than one fish at a time. The photographer, Miguel Lasa, has a web site; fantastic pictures of birds; his face-on snowy owl with mouth open is my favorite; a beautiful contrast in black and white with a bit of pink tongue. I think he is from the UK and takes a lot of his pictures in Finland.

    1. Salle Avatar

      Thanks, Barb. A couple others posted the same link. They are amazing photos all the same… I took a few moments to look at them all over again since you went to all the trouble to post them. And you also reminded me that I forgot to bookmark the link! Thank you. 🙂


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan