As I write this, Election Day is mere days away. On the ballot in Nebraska next Tuesday will be Legislative Resolution 40CA, also known as Proposed Amendment 2, which is a “proposed amendment to establish that the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife is subject only to laws, rules and regulations that preserve the future of hunting, fishing and the promotion of wildlife conservation and management. If adopted by voters, the constitutional amendment would declare public hunting and fishing as the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife”. Around the state, many have asked why such an amendment is necessary. Certainly, those who are not involved in outdoor pursuits may not understand the importance of such legislation and we tend to take for granted the natural bounty of our nation, so let’s take a brief look at our history.
The United States is a huge chunk of real estate that is rich in natural resources. Prior to being heavily settled, nature did a fine job of regulating itself. For instance, if a herd of deer became too large for a portion of land to sustain, disease and starvation would diminish the population.
As the United States population grew, so did the demands on wildlife. The Industrial Revolution fostered a rapidly growing urban population that created a market for game meat and infringed on habitat. It also created an upper class of citizens with money and leisure time for “sport hunting”. As a result, some species were hunted to near extinction and conflict arose between the meat hunters and the sport hunters.
In 1842, a Supreme Court ruling (Martin v. Waddell) stated that wildlife resources would be owned by no individual and would be held in trust by the government. This position was contrary to the rest of the world where wildlife is owned by landowners. In addition, the United States adopted the position of the sport hunters that advocated “the elimination of markets for game, allocation of wildlife by law rather than privilege, and restraint on the killing of wildlife for anything other than legitimate purposes”. Together, these doctrines became known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
Another great stride towards wildlife conservation was made in 1937. The Pittman-Robertson Act, enacted under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, created an excise tax on firearms and ammunition that is allocated to states by the Secretary of the Interior to be combined with money collected by the states through the sale of hunting licenses for use for hunter education, wildlife management, research, and habitat acquisition and improvement, among other things.
As a country, we have managed our wildlife populations back to healthy ranges and are constantly monitoring and regulating them. We are educating hunters on safety and ethical practices. We are acquiring and improving habitats across the nation. Most of these programs are initiated on the dime of those who hunt through license fees, taxes on firearms and ammunition, or charitable contributions. You would think this would make everyone happy, huh? Think again.
Every hunter also knows that there are people, who claim to put the interests of animals above all, who would strip us of our right to hunt. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “Sport” hunting is a violent form of recreation that has left countless animals maimed and orphaned animals vulnerable to starvation, exposure, and predation. This activity disrupts natural animal population dynamics and has contributed to the extinction of animal species …” PETA and other animal rights groups would love nothing more than to put an end to all types of hunting in their misguided effort to protect wildlife and our natural environment. They say this as if nature itself does not employ “cruel” tactics against wildlife in the natural flow of life. I propose that allowing animals to overpopulate land sustainability, thereby creating an environment of starvation and disease, is far less humane than ethical hunting.
While there is no dispute that uncontrolled hunting once created extirpation and extinction, modern ethical hunters have a vested interest in managing a healthy and sustainable wildlife population as a food source, for recreational purposes, and to provide a foundation to our hunting heritage as we move forward. Intelligent, thoughtful, and scientifically based conservation of natural resources benefits everyone now and in the future. The proliferation of wild turkeys in Nebraska is an excellent example of the efforts of conservation groups. An indigenous species to Nebraska, wild turkeys were completely extirpated from the state by the early 1900’s. Through the efforts of state wildlife agencies, groups such as The National Wild Turkey Federation, and concerned individuals, Nebraska’s wild turkey population has exploded 500% since 2002 according to Kit Hams, Big Game Program Manager with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The birds have become so prevalent that they are regularly seen strolling across main thoroughfares in urban areas. My husband has seen so many turkeys on golf courses that he wishes there was a 4-Iron season in addition to the archery and shotgun seasons!
I am proud of Nebraska for taking this step to proactively protect the right to hunt and fish in their state. It means that they are supportive of our hunting heritage, our right to teach our sons and daughters to be ethical hunters, self-sufficient, and good stewards of our natural resources. And, let’s just keep it real; it also means that they value the money that hunting generates for the state so that they can manage and conserve wildlife, acquire and improve habitat, and provide improved recreational areas enjoyed by everyone, not just hunters.
Election Day is rapidly approaching. If, like me, you have done your research and determined your stand on the candidates and issues, you are probably tired of campaign signs, robo-calls, television ads, and politically charged comments on Facebook. You have only one thing left to do…VOTE! It is more than your obligation; more than a civic duty. Voting is your right, bought with the blood of our forefathers. Please, PLEASE make voting a top priority on Tuesday, November 6. And, if you live in Nebraska, vote “YES” on Amendment 2.