I’ve been seeing some discussion lately of the proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution with respect to Hunting, Fishing, and “Harvesting Wildlife.” I wrote about it a couple of times back in 2015 (and in 2005, 2011, and 2013 it turns out)
So, once more with feeling, I suppose. Vote against this. We should only amend the Constitution when there is a clear need. It’s a foundational document, and we should not tinker with it lightly. If there is a problem, run-of-the-mill laws are usually sufficient. Amending the constitution is an extraordinary act. Furthermore, when we do amend the Constitution, the language should be direct and clear. In this case, the language isn’t clear, there is not a discernible problem being addressed, and there is no indication that ordinary legislation is somehow insufficient to address any problems there might be.
The proposed amendment states:
Section 39. (a) The right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife:
(1) is a valued part of Indiana’s heritage; and
(2) shall be forever preserved for the public good.
(b) The people have a right, which includes the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to the laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly to:
(1) promote wildlife conservation and management; and
(2) preserve the future of hunting and fishing.
(c) Hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.
(d) This section shall not be construed to limit the application of any provision of law relating to trespass or property rights.
Back in 2015, I raised the following questions and have not seen answers to them:
1. What does it mean to say “The right to harvest wildlife shall be forever preserved for the public good”?
2. What are “traditional methods?” Whose traditions. At what point in time? Can we develop new traditions? Can old traditions become non-traditional in some fashion?
3. If hunting and fishing are the preferred means of managing wildlife, can non-preferred methods be used where they are more effective or more desirable in some fashion? If so, what’s the point of this provision?
4. If the section is not construed to limit trespass or property rights, what laws or rights are limited?
At best, the proposed amendment does nothing. The middle option is that it opens up a can of unintended consequences. The worst is that there is something nefarious I don’t see. So, I would urge people to vote “no” on this.
Update Josh Claybourn has an analysis that goes much deeper than mine.