Constitutional amendments and bills are being proposed in several states that will protect the right to hunt and fish, with sportsmen saying they are concerned that efforts by animal-rights organizations will result in hunting bans.
Seventeen states already have constitutional guarantees that protect hunters' rights, The Wall Street Journal reported
, and further efforts are unfolding in several other states, including Indiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Missouri.
Hunters are concerned about ballot proposals such as one this fall in Maine that would prohibit bear hunting with bait, dogs, or traps. In addition, California lawmakers late last year passed the nation's first law prohibiting the use of lead ammunition while hunting, KCET.org reported
, in a plan that met with environmentalists' support and heavy disapproval from hunters groups.
California also bans bear and bobcat hunting with dogs. In North Carolina, conservation groups filed a lawsuit last year seeking a ban on coyote hunting in hopes of protecting the state's endangered red wolves.
Animal rights groups deny they're pushing for hunting bans.
Instead, said Michael Markarian, the chief program and policy officer for the Humane Society of the United States, the efforts are being made to curb "abusive or unsporting practices ... eliminating bear baiting doesn't mean there's no bear hunting."
Nick Pinizzotto, president of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, said pro-hunting measures add protection that "sends a loud and clear message that we are a state that embraces the outdoor lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and trapping."
Alabama Democratic state Sen. Hank Sanders, who supports hunting and fishing, said he voted against his state's amendment proposal because he doesn't think there needs to be a constitutional amendment to support hunters' rights.
"There is no threat to hunting and fishing in Alabama," he said. "Hunting and fishing is more protected than the right to vote in Alabama."
Hunting and fishing had been on the decline since the early 1980s, but seems to be climbing again, according to the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey.
Dan Forster, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, told the Journal the sport may be coming back because of the number of state and federal programs to recruit new hunters and keep more experienced ones hunting.
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