As innocuous as it may sound, HB 1 ( The right to hunt and fish bill) has the potential to dramatically change how the Commonwealth manages land for reasons other than hunting and fishing. In fact, the simple bill (that is only about one paragraph long) seems to imply that the only value any non-developed land has is its value in regard to hunting and fishing. Further, it seems to say that any sort of legal restriction on land use is only valid if it Promotes wildlife conservation and management and preserves the future of hunting and fishing. The standard against which all future restrictions on what you can and can’t do on public lands ( parks, scenic areas, nature preserves, hiking and riding trails etc.) will be judged solely on their impact on the future of hunting and fishing.
What this would do to the current restrictions on hunting and fishing in nature preserves or parks and other scenic areas is unclear and troublesome. Common sense restrictions on where and when you can hunt and fish protects individuals’ rights as well as wildlife resources. But there are other restrictions that the state uses for reasons other than wildlife management. Restrictions are placed on land use to help promote the development of rich and diverse biological communities. Rules on water pollution and the destruction of natural areas do not always clearly promote the conservation and management of fishing and hunting but still have a significant impact on the overall health of the ecosystem. Whether these sorts of restrictions would be allowable under the new amendment would likely be decided in court.
So why is it necessary to amend our State Constitution in such narrow manner. That’s a good question. There is a thread of fear that runs through all of what I like to call this “secessionist” session. It’s the fear that somehow our government has become some sort of alien power bent on taking away all of our rights and centering on our right to own and use firearms. If this bill passes, it will put the question to all the voters of the state in the form of a constitutional amendment. The money that will pour in to the state from certain groups, and the general anti-government feeling that’s so prevalent today may very well see it passed. If it passes it may break something that has functioned pretty well for a long time. At the very least, it will confuse the right of government to protect its natural areas except when they are directly related to hunting and fishing. You still have a chance to voice your objections to this bill to your legislative leaders. The KCC strongly urges you to do so.