DES MOINES, Iowa – On Tuesday morning, an Iowa House subcommittee advanced a proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 8, that would protect Iowans’ right to hunt, fish, trap, and harvest wildlife in the state.
Twenty-three states include the right to hunt and fish in their state constitutions, with North Carolina and Utah being the last two states to add protections in 2018 and 2020, respectfully.
The text of the resolution’s proposed amendment reads:
1. The people of this state have the right to hunt, fish, trap, and harvest wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, subject to reasonable laws enacted by the general assembly and reasonable rules adopted by the natural resource commission that promote wildlife conservation and management, that maintain natural resources in trust for public use, and that preserve the future of hunting, fishing, trapping, and harvesting wildlife.
2. Public hunting, fishing, trapping, and harvesting of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.
3. This section shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to eminent domain, trespass, property rights, or water resources.
State Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montrose, introduced the legislation told The Iowa Torch he believed the proposed amendment is vital to preserve these rights for future Iowans.
“I believe strongly that we must protect our sporting traditions as well as protect the proper management of our wildlife. These sporting traditions have been under attack for decades by various organizations that lack the knowledge of how to properly utilize and manage our resources,” he said. “As our populations continue to shift from rural and agricultural lifestyles towards more urban lifestyles, it becomes all the more important to provide protections for these sporting traditions in our state constitution. By adding these protections to our state constitution we will ensure that these sporting traditions and wildlife management methods can continue on for many more generations.”
There was registered opposition to the proposed amendment from groups like the Human Society and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club. Opponents believe that the amendment would hinder elected officials from modernizing the way wildlife is managed in Iowa and that the amendment would hurt the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. One opponent believed the amendment represents a “one-size-fits-all” approach to wildlife management.
Eric Goranson, who represents Pheasants Forever, Quails Forever, and the Iowa Bowhunters Association, disagreed.
“We don’t feel like these amendments are prescriptive as how to manage populations numbers, nor is it prohibitive in how to manage numbers. It still remains flexible,” he told The Iowa Torch.
Goranson believes that the proposed constitutional amendment in Iowa needs to be more straightforward for voters.
In the subcommittee, he recommended the language that Minnesota added to their state constitution in 1998 with over 77 percent of the vote.
That text reads, “Hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good.”
Goranson told The Iowa Torch that Iowa’s language would have to include trapping also.
“The language is simple and keeps voters in mind. It’s simple and easy to understand,” he said.
In addition to the groups Goranson represents, several other groups registered support for the bill such as the Iowa Coon Hunters Association, Iowa Trappers Association, Iowa Conservation Alliance, Ducks Unlimited, and Iowa Whitetail Deer Association. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Environmental Council were registered undecided.
The subcommittee included State Reps. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, Jo Oldson, D-Des Moines, and Cherielynn Westrich, R-Ottumwa. Wheeler and Westrich supported the resolution; Oldson did not.
The bill is eligible for consideration by the Iowa House Judiciary Committee. If passed this session, it would need to pass again during the 90th General Assembly before Iowa voters decide.