Voters will get to decide whether to enshrine the right to hunt and fish in the state’s constitution this fall, joining more than 20 other states in the nation with the same protection.
SB677 passed in the House in a 92-23 vote and passed in the Senate in a 41-6 vote on Monday.
The bill puts a proposed state constitutional amendment to voters providing that the people of North Carolina have a right to use traditional methods to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to certain limitations promoting wildlife conservation and resource management.
The language of the amendment would read, “The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good. The people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to promote wildlife conservation and management and preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. Nothing herein shall be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights, or eminent domain.”
Currently 22 other states already have a right to hunt and fish in their state constitution.
“Of all the matters we will consider, this one is perhaps the most simple, but also the most down to earth,” Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), during debates on the House floor. “The one that is truest to what North Carolina is about. This is the right of the people of North Carolina to be able to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife in accordance with the laws passed here in this chamber. I would urge your support of this bill.”
According to data from 2011, North Carolinians spent $2.3 billion on hunting and fishing in the state, generating $249 million in revenue and supporting more than 35,000 local jobs.
In 2016 alone the state issued 1.87 million hunting and fishing licenses.
After the House approved amendments to the legislation and gave it final approval the bill went back to the Senate for a concurring vote to be finalized and head to the people for a vote.
“We are very pleased that North Carolinians will now have the opportunity to vote to preserve the right to hunt and fish in our state constitution,” Sens. Danny Britt (R-Robeson), Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) and Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) said in a joint statement. “These rights are deeply rooted in the culture of North Carolina and that is what this amendment recognizes. We are confident that voters will agree.”