By ANDREW DeMILLO
Associated Press Writer
LITTLE ROCK — Hunting and fishing is a way of life in much of Arkansas, and a measure on the November ballot will try to make it a right enshrined in the state’s constitution as well.
Arkansas is one of four states where voters will be asked to protect hunting and fishing rights. A proposed amendment on the state’s ballot would make hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting wildlife a constitutionally protected right.
Arizona, South Carolina and Tennessee have similar measures on the ballot this fall. Kentucky plans a vote in 2012.
The Arkansas proposal is one of three that were referred to voters by the Legislature last year, and its chief backer said he was motivated by what he saw as attempts by animal rights groups to restrict hunting in other states.
State Sen. Steve Faris, who advocated the measure before the Legislature last year, said he sees the proposal as something to complement Amendment 35, which gave the state Game and Fish Commission regulatory power.
“Outdoor activity and tourism and hunting and fishing are a bit part of the draw to the state of Arkansas and also a big part of the lives of people who are here,” Faris said. “We put that in there to protect those various things. This just takes it a step further.”
The proposal, however, won’t change the Game and Fish Commission’s ability to regulate hunting and fishing. The measure also affect laws regarding private property, eminent domain or firearms.
Ten states already have the right to hunt and fish in their constitution, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vermont’s is the oldest, dating to 1777.
Measures like Arkansas’ has prompted skepticism among animal rights groups, but not much public opposition.
“If we have the right to hunt and trap, then what’s next? The right to shop or golf?” said Lindsay Rajt, manager of the campaign department for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Rajt said PETA views the proposed amendment as unnecessary, but said her group isn’t actively campaigning against the proposal. Rajt said she’s more concerned about the message it would send to other groups.
“It could open the door to other amendments whose only purpose would be to make political statements for interest groups,” Rajt said. “It’s a solution in search of a problem.”
Officials with the Humane Society of the United States echoed the sentiment, saying they typically don’t campaign against measures like Arkansas’ proposal.
No group has organized to advocate for or against the measure. Faris said he doesn’t plan on organizing any campaign for the proposal, though he says he’s willing to speak on its behalf.