To the editor:
At the top of this year’s ballot there is a proposed constitutional amendment establishing the right to hunt, fish and trap wildlife in Indiana. On the surface, this proposal sounds like the kind of feel-good idea that’s hard to oppose. But there are ramifications far beyond the surface that make it far from innocuous.
Let me say up front that I am not opposed to hunting, fishing and trapping. Responsible hunters and anglers are vital to the proper management of Indiana wildlife. Without them, there would be no way to control animal populations, which in turn would wreak inestimable damage on the environment.
The proposed amendment, however, has several potential negative consequences that in the long run could harm the environment and ultimately negatively impact the very activities it was designed to protect.
For example, under the amendment, it could become easier to import out-of-state deer for confined or penned hunting. These deer could bring in diseases such as wasting disease that would be devastating for local deer populations.
It would be possible for hunters to press for the right to hunt on any public land, regardless of the environmental impact.
The amendment also includes a section that states that hunting and fishing will be the “preferred method of wildlife management” in Indiana. This language would appear to place hunting legally ahead of other accepted forms of wildlife management and might interfere in future efforts to find new ways to manage our wildlife.
The proposal also might limit the ability of counties, cities and towns to enact their own ordinances to protect wildlife in their area as they see fit.
It would become harder for the Indiana Department of Resources to designate preserve areas, where hunting, fishing and trapping would be excluded. It would require an act of the General Assembly every time to set aside that acreage, a needlessly lengthy process and involve a decision better left to conservation professionals.
Finally, this amendment would prevent local communities from enacting any kind of ordinance restricting firearms sales, no matter how common sense the proposal.
My father was an avid fisherman and hunter and in his youth was a trapper as well. So I grew up with an appreciation of those sports. But I also grew up with an environmental ethic that helps me see the integrated role hunters and anglers play in conservation efforts.
This amendment, as well meaning as I am sure its proponents mean it to be, carries enormous environmental risks that simply are not worth taking. It is vital that Hoosiers vote against this proposal.