We need to pro­tect our right in NC to hunt and fish

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY CATHY WRIGHT

One of the things our fam­ily loves most about our adopted home state of North Carolina is the abun­dance of out­door recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing hunt­ing and fish­ing. This year we have an op­por­tu­nity to pro­tect these cher­ished tra­di­tions by vot­ing to amend the state con­sti­tu­tion to pro­tect our right to hunt and fish.

In our sub­ur­ban Chapel Hill neigh­bor­hood, I have seen the im­por­tant role that hunt­ing plays in wildlife con­ser­va­tion. As cochairs of our neigh­bor­hood deer man­age­ment com­mit­tee, my hus­band and I work with the N.C. Bowhunters As­so­ci­a­tion to per­form our an­nual deer culling pro­gram. Our pri­mary ob­jec­tive is to re­duce or main­tain deer num­bers in res­i­den­tial or other highly-de­vel­oped ar­eas to min­i­mize hu­man­deer con­flicts while pre­serv­ing or im­prov­ing herd health. The har­vest pro­vides meat for the hun­ters, and is of­ten shared with lo­cal food banks and an an­i­mal res­cue shel­ter.

For years my hus­band hunted elk in Colorado. Al­most every year he brought home elk meat that I would turn into a de­li­cious beef bour­guignon. When I served it to friends, they were al­ways shocked to learn it was elk meat.

If we don’t show our sup­port for the right to hunt and fish amend­ment to the state con­sti­tu­tion, we could lose these long held tra­di­tions. For years, ex­trem­ist an­i­mal rights groups have been chip­ping away at these rights. Cal­i­for­nia banned moun­tain lion hunt­ing in the 1990s; Michi­gan banned dove hunt­ing in the 2000s; and just this year, New Jer­sey’s gov­er­nor banned bear hunt­ing.

We are for­tu­nate that in North Carolina the right to hunt and fish has broad bi­par­ti­san sup­port. The res­o­lu­tion to bring this amend­ment to the bal­lot passed the state Se­nate 41-6 and the House 92-23. In to­tal, 21 states have con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments pro­tect­ing the right to hunt and fish.

Pass­ing a con­sti­tu­tional right to hunt and fish is crit­i­cal to fund­ing fish and wildlife re­search and con­ser­va­tion. Hun­ters and an­glers di­rectly fund these ef­forts through a va­ri­ety of li­censes, taxes and fees. In 2017, the sale of hunt­ing li­censes in North Carolina brought in $10.5 mil­lion and fish­ing li­censes brought in $19.7 mil­lion. Those fees, paid by hun­ters and an­glers, go di­rectly to fund con­ser­va­tion.

In ad­di­tion, North Carolina re­ceives fund­ing each year from a fed­eral ex­cise tax col­lected on the pur­chase of firearms, am­mu­ni­tion, and archery equip­ment. Last year, to­tal rev­enue from firearms and am­mu­ni­tion taxes was $761.6 mil­lion. North Carolina re­ceived $20.7 mil­lion through this pro­gram.

These funds, as re­quired by fed­eral law, must be spent on wildlife con­ser­va­tion, hunter ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic shoot­ing ranges. Be­cause of this pro­gram, wildlife that was once in peril is now abun­dant. The wild turkey pop­u­la­tion in North Carolina, for ex­am­ple, has in­creased from an es­ti­mated 2,000 birds in 1970 to an es­ti­mated 265,000 birds in 2015, and has been re­stored to every county in the state.

Hunt­ing and fish­ing have a huge im­pact on the state’s econ­omy. Ac­cord­ing to the North Carolina Out­door In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, more than half of North Carolina res­i­dents par­tic­i­pate in out­door re­cre­ation each year, gen­er­at­ing $28 bil­lion for the econ­omy.

Most im­por­tant of all, for many North Carolini­ans hunt­ing is a fam­ily sport that brings them closer to na­ture, closer to each other, and closer to their food sources. When chil­dren learn where their food comes from, they ap­pre­ci­ate it more. They learn to re­spect the an­i­mals and the land.

Vot­ing to sup­port the right to hunt and fish amend­ment will en­sure fam­i­lies can con­tinue to cre­ate these mem­o­ries for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Cathy Wright, a vol­un­teer Front­Lines Ac­tivist Leader for the NRA’s In­sti­tute for Leg­isla­tive Ac­tion, lives in Chapel Hill.

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