Cronkite Header

Cronkite News has moved to a new home at Use this site to search archives from 2011 to May 2015. You can search the new site for current stories.

Lawmaker revives bid to add right to hunt, fish to Arizona Constitution

Email this story
Print this story

Hunting and fishing are under constant threat and deserve protection as constitutionally guaranteed rights in Arizona, a state lawmaker contends.

“I’m not a hunter,” said state Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff. “However, hunting and fishing are important economically for our state, and are popular recreational activities for many of our citizens.”

Thorpe authored legislation that would have Arizonans vote on whether to add the right to hunt and fish to the state Constitution. It’s identical to a 2010 ballot measure that failed with voters, with an animal rights group and groups advocating for hunters and anglers providing most of the funding for and against.

There are currently 18 states that guarantee the right to hunt and fish in the Constitution, 17 of which were approved by voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Funding for Arizonans Against the Power Grab, Anti-109 | Create infographics

“I’d like Arizona to be aligned with the other states in recognizing how important these outdoor sports are,” Thorpe said. “I’m hoping voters will be warmer to it now.”

Under HCR 2014, “No law may be enacted and no rule may be adopted that unreasonably restricts hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife or the use of traditional means and methods.”

It would provide that “exclusive authority” to enact laws and regulate hunting or fishing rests with the Legislature, though that body could delegate rulemaking authority to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

If approved by voters, the resolution would make hunting and fishing “a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.”

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, which opposed the 2010 measure, said the proposed changes would remove science from wildlife management by giving the Legislature exclusive authority over wildlife management.

“We’ve never heard a good reason,” she said. “It was a bad idea then, it’s a bad idea now. That seems like a pretty clear message to the Legislature.”

Bahr said that the biggest problem with the bill is that it takes a privilege and turns it into a constitutional right.

“It’s not exactly up there with freedom of speech,” she said. “It would make it harder to regulate, and we know it needs regulations. One of the reasons a lot of species are endangered is from overhunting.”

The Humane Society of the United States contributed $320,000 to Arizonans Against the Power Grab, the political committee opposed to the 2010 ballot measure, accounting for 72 percent of the total.

Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said the proposal would put wildlife management in the hands of politicians and special interest groups.

“Arizonans already have the right to hunt and fish, so there’s no threat,” she said.

But Douglas Beach, president of the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, said the proposal would make for less politics and give the Arizona Game and Fish Department better control over regulation.

“I don’t think it would take anything from Game and Fish,” he said. “I think it would help them do their job better, because they want to manage wildlife with science, not politics.”

Steve Sams, president of the Arizona Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, said that the issue comes down to protecting hunting and fishing for Arizonans.

Groups supporting Prop 109 | Create infographics

“There are folks who are adamantly opposed to hunting, and they seem to periodically get legislation to reduce what hunters and fishermen can do,” he said. “We’ve seen it in other states, that even though there is the opportunity to hunt and fish people get restrictive legislation passed.”

Groups involved in hunting and fishing, including the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, contributed $339,000 to support the 2010 ballot measure.

Thorpe, whose bill had yet to be assigned to a committee, said he wants to make sure hunters and fishermen in Arizona have the opportunity to continue traditions have existed for generations.

“Hunting has a long history in Arizona as a humane way of keeping animal populations in check,” he said.