While recent surveys show that an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans support our right to hunt and fish, some have asked good questions regarding this issue.
Please feel free to submit additional questions so that we can better communicate with Tennessee's citizens.
Why is a right to hunt and fish necessary in Tennessee?
First and foremost, the effort to create a right to hunt and fish in the Tennessee constitution is a proactive effort to prevent these time-honored traditions from being abolished by a future general assembly. Should constitutional protection become necessary in the future, we would be at a distinct disadvantage.
Once the constitution has been amended, any future effort to ban hunting and fishing would require a multi-year legislative process and a vote of the people to remove the amendment. . Further, the amendment will provide significant protection from misguided lawsuits that does not exist today.”
Additionally, hunting and fishing drive essentially all of the wildlife funding in Tennessee – both game and non-game. By protecting the Tennessee traditions of hunting and fishing, we will preserve the funding that helps take care of all of Tennessee’s fish and wildlife.
Finally, hunting and fishing represent an economic engine in all of our 95 counties – from the rural areas to our largest cities. The hunting and fishing industry generates more than $2.4 billion annually, including nearly $100 million in sales tax revenues and thousands of jobs. In these economic times, that’s a major impact we can’t live without.
Why is it important to pass the Right to Hunt and Fish amendment now?
Following the success of similar amendments in other states over the last 20 years, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation began the legislative process to secure a referendum in 2004. The lengthy process was complicated, but in the end the Tennessee General Assembly voted nearly unanimously to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot to be decided by the people.
Our state’s population is growing and the demographics are rapidly changing. We may not always have the support of the majority of our legislators, and we needed to seize the opportunity while it existed.
The passage of the amendment will have two positive effects. First, it will act as a serious deterrent to those persons and organizations wishing to end hunting and fishing today; and second, it will prevent the loss of these traditions in the future.
The time was right to act, and this is our chance to put the issue to rest forever.
Do other states have the Right to Hunt and Fish in their constitutions?
Yes, 14 states have the personal right to hunt and fish secured in their state constitutions.
Some of the states (California and Minnesota are good examples) passed amendments because animal rights organizations posed a real threat to hunters and fishermen. Most of the others, like Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, were being proactive.
Other states having a right to hunt and fish provision in their constitutions include Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Four states – Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee – have a Right to Hunt and Fish amendment on the ballot in 2010. Several others are working through the legislative process required for public referendum.
What does the Right to Hunt and Fish do for sportsmen and women in Tennessee?
With the Right to Hunt and Fish secured in our state constitution, any future efforts to abolish hunting or fishing would face much more difficulty in Tennessee.
In order to overturn a constitutional amendment, a legislator must sponsor a bill that would require passage at the committee level and by a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly, in two separate sessions. If it passed those hurdles, then it would have to get the majority of the votes in a statewide referendum. It would be a multi-year process, whereas today, the passage of a law (even at the local level) or a lower court ruling could conceivably ban hunting or fishing.
Additionally, this right will allow sportsmen and women a stronger appeal to any legal effort in a court of law – this added level of protection is significant, and it does not currently exist.
Would the Right to Hunt and Fish allow citizens to trespass on private property in pursuit of fish and game?
Absolutely not. The language in the proposed constitutional amendment – written by a former chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court -- specifically protects private property owners’ rights to prevent and prosecute trespass.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation wholeheartedly supports the rights of private landowners, and would never support an initiative that could deteriorate the rights of individual property owners.
Will the Right to Hunt and Fish allow citizens to hunt or fish without a license?
No. The amendment clearly specifies the continued requirement of a hunting/fishing license, and protect’s the state’s ability to set seasons and regulations.
The funds generated by hunting and fishing support the operations of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and are used to manage both game and non-game species.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation recognizes the critical importance of that funding mechanism, and supports the Agency’s expertise in setting the fees associated with licensure of hunters and anglers in Tennessee.
Will the constitutional amendment allow citizens to ignore bag limits or season requirements?
It most certainly will not. The language in the amendment specifically states that hunting and fishing are subject to reasonable regulations as prescribed by law.
Bag limits and season lengths will always be management tools used by wildlife and fisheries biologists to preserve and maintain Tennessee’s fish and wildlife populations.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation works closely with the TWRA on a number of issues. TWF fully endorses the great work the Agency does in managing wildlife, including the establishment of seasons and bag limits.
What can I do to help?
There are many ways by which every citizen of the state of Tennessee can help secure our Right to Hunt and Fish. The public education component of this campaign will be costly, and the Tennessee Wildlife Heritage Fund is set up specifically to help pay for the costs of this campaign. We need your financial support, and your contribution will help ensure the success of this initiative. You can make a donation to the campaign via PayPal or by mailing your contribution to the Tennessee Wildlife Heritage Fund, 300 Orlando Avenue, Suite 200, Nashville, TN 37209.Most importantly, Vote YES on November 2, or during the early voting period October 13-28. We can’t win without your vote.
You can also help by spreading the positive message of Vote YES on the constitutional amendment. Talk to your friends and neighbors, tell them why you support it and why you believe we all have a stake in the future of our wildlife populations. Write letters to the editor of your newspaper, send emails and organize informational events in your community. Contact us and we’ll get you involved in the effort.