Constitutional amendment proposed to preserve fishing, hunting rights

The Nebraska Constitution would be amended to recognize the right of citizens to fish, trap and hunt under a proposed constitutional amendment debated on general file March 31 and April 5.

If approved by the Legislature, LR40CA, introduced by Omaha Sen. Pete Pirsch, would be submitted to Nebraska voters during the 2012 general election. The proposed amendment originally would have added a new section to Article 15 to declare fishing, trapping and hunting as rights that shall forever be preserved for the people subject to reasonable restrictions as prescribed by law.

Pirsch said the constitutional amendment is needed to ward off “fringe groups” that have been successful in stopping bear hunting in New Jersey and coordinating legislative action to stop pheasant and dove hunting in Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Pirsch offered an amendment to his proposal to add that:

  • the right be subject only to laws, rules and regulations that preserve the future of hunting and fishing and promote wildlife conservation and management;
  • public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife; and
  • the new language could not be construed to modify laws addressing trespassing or property rights.

Holdrege Sen. Tom Carlson said 13 other states have taken action similar to LR40CA to protect against groups wishing to curtail hunting and fishing rights.

“What could be more appropriate for constitutional consideration than the threat of basic freedoms being taken away?” Carlson asked.

Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill said the state constitution is a “sacred document” that should not be changed lightly. She introduced an amendment to include other activities that Nebraskans enjoy to demonstrate how LR40CA would modify the constitution in an unfavorable way, including swimming, farming, ranching, driving, boating, tubing, golfing, napping, parenting, learning, camping, pioneering, innovating and watching Husker football. Such activities do not belong in the constitution any more than hunting and fishing, she said.

“I don’t think this rises to the level of needing an amendment to our constitution,” McGill said, adding that there is no credible threat to these activities in Nebraska.

Lawmakers adjourned before taking any votes.

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