KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas voters on Nov. 8 will decide the fate of a proposed amendment to the state constitution declaring that Kansas residents have the right to hunt, fish and trap wildlife. Here’s a look at the issue:
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? The measure, Constitutional Amendment 1, would add a new section to the state’s Bill of Rights to explicitly preserve hunting and fishing as a preferred way to manage wildlife. Any future measures seeking to limit hunting or fishing would need proof that a particular animal could become endangered. The Kansas measure easily won the required two-thirds majority in both the state Senate and House for a place on the ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would make the state among roughly 20 in which hunting and fishing are a constitutional right.
WHY NOW? Some lawmakers say the measure is a pre-emptive safeguard against possible restrictions such as pushes to ban hunting and fishing outright or incrementally. The National Rifle Association has said animal-rights groups pressed to ban the hunting of certain animals that weren’t endangered. A 1990 ballot initiative banned mountain lion hunting in California. Campaigns by animal-protection groups in 2006 brought about a ban on dove hunting in Michigan.
WHAT’S THE EXPECTED ECONOMIC IMPACT? Kansas brought in roughly $26 million from hunting and fishing permits and licenses in the 2015 fiscal year, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Under the proposed amendment, hunters and anglers still would need the correct licenses and stamps. A spokesman for the state’s wildlife and parks department, Ron Kaufman, said that while the KDWPT testified legislatively in support of getting the measure on the ballot, it has taken no public stance on it now that the matter is headed to voters.
WHAT CRITICS SAY: Ron Klataske, Audubon of Kansas’ executive director, has said the measure might prevent citizens from stepping in to prevent unsportsmanlike practices, and that the greatest threat to hunters is the loss of habitat, not animal-rights organizations. Klataske said, “it’s ridiculous to put something like that in the state constitution.”
IN OTHER STATES: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to hunt and fish. Vermont’s language dates to 1777; the guarantees in the other 18 states have passed since 1996. California and Rhode Island have language in their constitutions guaranteeing the right to fish, but not to hunt. Indiana voters also will decide Nov. 8 whether to amend its constitution to include the right to hunt and fish. Missouri and at least five other states introduced legislation on this issue in 2016, but those measures did not pass.