by Cody McLaughlin - Monday, February 13, 2023
As proud NRA members and readers of this site know, the movement to enshrine the Right to Hunt and Fish (RTHF) into state constitutions is an incredibly important policy milestone in protecting the future of hunting, fishing and conservation across our nation. It is why the NRA Institute for Legislative Action’s (NRA-ILA) State and Local Affairs Division makes it a top priority to get such formal constitutional protections passed in all 50 states. For some good news this month, Oregon is the latest state pushing to get a RTHF amendment added to the statewide ballot on Election Day 2024.
On Feb. 2, NRA-ILA representatives and other hunting and fishing-backed advocacy groups testified in front of the Oregon House Rules Committee in support of House Joint Resolution 5, which proposes a ballot measure that, if it passes the committee and the Oregon House, will be voted on by the people of Oregon next November.
The proposed state constitutional amendment reads as follows: “Residents of this state have the right to fish, hunt or harvest wildlife and gather wild foods by traditional methods or manners, subject only to laws enacted by the Legislative Assembly and rules adopted by state agencies to promote sound wildlife conservation and management. The right to fish, hunt or harvest wildlife and gather wild foods is a valued part of Oregon’s heritage and shall be forever preserved. This section does not abrogate any public or private property rights or the sovereignty of this state over its natural resources.”
The right to hunt and fish is a fundamental aspect of Oregon’s heritage and culture. It is an activity that has been passed down from generation to generation, providing a source of food, recreation and economic benefit to the state. However, with the growing influence of anti-hunting extremist groups, the future of these activities is uncertain if there is no state constitutional RTHF amendment in place. If you need examples of how hunting, hunter-backed wildlife conservation programs and other traditional outdoor sports are under attack, look no further than California, New Jersey or even Oregon’s own neighbor to the north, Washington.
As this NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website recently reported, Washington state is currently facing a critical legal challenge over the appointment of anti-hunters to its Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC). This scenario has resulted in years of internal conflict and unrest within the FWC, threatening the future of hunting in the state. This ongoing issue highlights the need for a constitutional amendment to safeguard hunting and fishing rights. The legal battle in Washington serves as a cautionary tale and a reminder of the importance of securing these rights at a state constitutional level.
Meanwhile, the national landscape of hunting and wildlife conservation is plagued by controversies, as evidenced by the inconsistent decisions made by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy regarding black bear management and anti-hunting appointments by the Biden Administration to the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council. Such examples highlight the urgent need for hunters at the state level to take proactive measures in ensuring their freedoms are protected. RTHF state constitutional amendments protect the right of hunters and anglers to responsibly harvest wild foods and enjoy a sporting lifestyle. They also prevent anti-hunting extremists from undermining these rights and traditions and circumventing them through loopholes and lawsuits.
As sportsmen, we know we can't take any chances or take any freedoms for granted. Should this resolution make it onto Oregon’s ballot in 2024 and pass, it will help to deter attempts by anti-hunting and fishing groups in the state to ban these activities.
The next hearing date on HJR 5 has yet to be scheduled so please stay tuned for details. In the meantime, whether or not you live in Oregon, all hunters should know where their state stands on enshrining the right to hunt and fish and work to get a RTHF resolution added to their own state ballot in states not already protected. Worth repeating, the states that do have RTHF amendments in place in large part have the NRA to thank for always fighting for American hunters.
About the Author
Cody McLaughlin is a conservationist and conservative thought leader on public policy issues including hunting, fishing, gun rights, free-market tax and wage policy and the environment. He works as a GOP consultant for conservative political causes, managing clients’ digital communications and online presence and as a trustee of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, helping to represent the state’s 1.2 million sportsmen in the political arena.
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