Democracy 2012: Kentucky fish and game issue

Voters in Kentucky will decide on Nov. 6 whether or not hunting and fishing should be considered constitutional rights.

Approving the state constitutional amendment would put the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife right up there with life, liberty and free speech in Kentucky.

While there are no obvious arguments against amending the constitution to make hunting and fishing a right, some in Kentucky have expressed concern that there are more important things to consider as constitutional amendments, others have said the amendment is just a means to ensure more extremist Republicans make it to the polls and still others say the amendment amounts to special interest groups making a statement and nothing more.

Proponents of the amendment argue that it protects the future of hunting and fishing and firms up other basic gun and private property rights.

"Yes, this amendment should be passed," said Mark Nethery, president of the League of Kentucky Sportsmen and a supporter of the amendment. "This amendment takes what is now the privilege of hunting and fishing making it a right of the citizens of the Commonwealth.  Additionally, this amendment sets the stage to protect our future wildlife resources, based on sound biological information, utilizing hunting and fishing as a management tool."

Opponents have argued the constitutional protection is unnecessary as no one is trying to curtail hunting and fishing in Kentucky or elsewhere where the issue has arisen.

"These amendments are just ways for special interest groups to make a statement," said Ashley Byrne, campaign specialist for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in New York. "They are a solution in search of a problem."

Nethery, however, notes that threats are arising elsewhere. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to use dogs to hunt bears and bobcats.

"Hunting and fishing is not currently under threat today in Kentucky, however there are many groups across the country whose goal is to do away with hunting and fishing,' said Nethery of Louisville, Ky.. "The approach of these groups is very organized, systematic and well funded."

Byrne said PETA's efforts are aimed at educating the public about insensitivity to animals, about how cruel a pastime hunting is, about its harm to the environment and about other ways to enjoy the outdoors.

She called the argument that hunting and fishing should be constitutionally protected a "frivolous argument" that will make no difference whether or not is passed because both would still be regulated.

"If you carry this argument through, how about a right to golf?" she said.

While passage of the amendment would extend constitutional protection to hunting and fishing, still the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources would continue to regulate both.

Fourteen other states have amended their constitutions to protect hunting and fishing, according to the National Rifle Association.

Here is how the issue will appear on the ballot:

"Are you in favor of amending the Kentucky constitution to state that the citizens of Kentucky have the personal right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject to laws and regulations that promote conservation and preserve the future of hunting and fishing, and to state that public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife?"

A yes vote ensures the protection of hunting and fishing in the Kentucky Constitution.

A no vote would deny the protection of hunting and fishing in the Kentucky Constitution.

9 News and will provide LIVE election results on Nov. 6.

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