Vote to guarantee right to hunt and fish in Tennessee

Vote to guarantee right to hunt and fish in Tennessee

Posted: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 1:50 pm
By: Judy Barker

By REP. JUDY BARKER
When voters go to the polls to elect our next governor, state representatives and others this Fall, they will have an opportunity to vote on another important issue — an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee the personal right to hunt and fish in Tennessee.
Since 2004, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation has been working through the process of placing this initiative on the ballot. They have gained the endorsements of the NRA, the Farm Bureau and national conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, the National Wild Turkey Federation and many others. Both gubernatorial candidates and numerous elected officials and candidates have endorsed the effort, and I am  proud to count myself among them. Early voting starts Oct. 13 and runs through Oct. 28, with election day on Nov. 2.
The language, which passed the General Assembly with only one dissenting vote, is clear and concise:
“The citizens of this state shall have the personal right to hunt and fish, subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions prescribed by law. The recognition of this right does not abrogate any private or public property rights, nor does it limit the state’s power to regulate commercial activity. Traditional manners and means may be used to take non-threatened species.”
Hunting and fishing are tremendously important to our local economy. When you think of all of the motel rooms, boat and ATV dealers, guides, bait shops and restaurants that depend on hunters and fishermen, you see that it’s big business, not only in West Tennessee but across the state. Without even counting the private dollars spent on leasing land by sportsmen, the annual economic impact of hunting and fishing in Tennessee exceeds $2.4 billion.
The revenues generated by the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses, along with taxes on related equipment, fund the TWRA almost exclusively. These dollars fund the management of our wildlife and fisheries  resources, and they contribute greatly to the open space we all enjoy for  not only hunting and fishing, but for hiking, camping, birdwatching and more.
Unfortunately, well-funded extremist groups have made very clear that they are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to achieve their goal of an outright ban on hunting and fishing, and they have had some success in other states. Earlier this month, PETA publicly demanded that several Tennessee universities ban their collegiate fishing programs. A few  years ago, the early resident goose hunt at Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge was canceled due to a lawsuit filed by one of the anti-hunting organizations.
The great outdoors are part of who we are as Tennesseans and Americans. For generations, our family has enjoyed hunting and fishing. I simply cannot imagine a West Tennessee without hunting and fishing.
I urge you to vote “YES” on Amendment #1 in the upcoming election, and to ask  your friends, neighbors, members of your church and civic clubs, and colleagues at work to do the same. For more information, visit www.huntandfishtn.com. We may never have this chance again — let’s protect our wildlife and preserve our traditions forever.
State Rep. Judy Barker represents Obion, Lake, and parts of Dyer counties in the Tennessee General Assembly. She was a co-sponsor of the legislation that allowed the Right to Hunt and Fish constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot as a public referendum.

Published in The Messenger 10.06.10

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