Constitutional Right to Hunt, Fish, Spend

By Ben Carter, Executive Director Dallas Safari Club

Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional lifestyles or weekend hobbies in Texas. They’re an economic force. Consider current statistics:

  • 7 million people hunt or fish in Texas – more than the population of Houston (2.1 million).
  • $4.1 billion is spent annually on hunting and fishing in Texas – a business nearly twice the size of our state’s second-largest agricultural commodity, cotton ($2.3 billion).
  • 65,000 jobs in Texas are supported by hunting and fishing – more than Dell, the University of Texas-Austin and MD Anderson Cancer Center combined (59,000 jobs).
  • $415 million in state and local taxes is generated from hunting and fishing in Texas – enough to support the average salaries of 8,100 police officers.

Imagine the impacts on our home state if it all went away!

Well-funded animal rights and anti-hunting organizations are chipping away at hunting and fishing. Publicity stunts, frivolous lawsuits, exploiting the Endangered Species Act, misleading petitions and ballot initiatives – backed by millions of dollars in emotional advertising – are the tools of their trade.

And they’ve proven effective in several states.

Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Wyoming are no longer allowed to control wolf populations through hunting. Dove hunting was stopped in Michigan. Hunting cougars was outlawed in California, and now residents can’t even import mountain lions taken legally in other states. In Maine, bear management via hunting is under regular attack, in spite of the fact that bear populations are at historic highs!

It’s only a matter of time before such shenanigans are tried in Texas.

However, two bills currently making their way through the Texas legislature, HJR61 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and SJR22 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), propose constitutional protections for hunting and fishing. Passage requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. If that happens, the question will go before voters on the November ballot.

It’s an opportunity to ward off future assaults. Eighteen states already have passed right-to-hunt-and-fish amendments, and they’re working.

For example, in Nebraska, less than two years after giving the wildlife commission authority to open a season on cougars, an indecisive legislature tried to repeal the hunt. Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto stopped the measure. His rationale was the state’s right-to-hunt constitutional amendment, passed in 2012. Heineman said legislatively banning a hunt appeared to violate a provision of the law stating that hunting “is the preferred means” of managing wildlife, and he did not wish to go against Nebraskans’ intent.

Yes, Texas is a unique sporting stronghold. We have the most hunters of any state. Only Florida has more anglers. If you’re one of us, it might be easy to shrug off the need for a full-blown constitutional amendment to protect something so engrained in Texas culture.

Which is the sort of apathy our opponents are counting on.

If you don’t hunt or fish, perhaps you don’t understand how hunters and anglers help manage and control wild species. Highway collisions with deer, tick-borne diseases, crop depredation, livestock losses, rabies, raccoons in the attic, goose poop on the putting greens. All these and more would increase, likely dramatically, if not for hunters.

As a non-hunter or non-angler, maybe you’re also unaware that hunters and anglers pay for today’s science-based conservation and habitat programs. Sporting license sales and special gear taxes deliver critical funding to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Or perhaps you’ve never considered that hunting and fishing are sustainable alternatives for providing your family with organic, local, lean, healthy protein.

All of which is exactly the sort of unfamiliarity our opponents are counting on.

And if you’re part of our opposition – an animal rights advocate who hates hunting, fishing, ranching, eating meat, drinking milk, wearing leather, riding horses, keeping pets and all the other ways that human life depends on animals – well, that’s the sort of extremism that led to America’s constitutional protections movement in the first place.

Texans’ ideals regarding hunting and fishing are all over the board. So just consider the economic impacts. Every issue is personal when it flattens your wallet. And if hunting and fishing suddenly went away, current statistics from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation show Texas would lose $11.3 million in spending – daily! Over the course of a year, the rippling effect would be a staggering $7.2 billion blow to our home state!

If you don’t support HJR61 and SJR22, I’m betting the financial hit is the sort of impact that you’re not counting on.


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