BOISE, Idaho (AP) — There is little doubt Idahoans love spending weekends, vacations or a day away from work in the backcountry tracking down wild game or wading in a river angling for a trout, steelhead or salmon.
But the question facing voters Tuesday is whether a right to hunt, fish and trap should be protected forever in the Idaho Constitution.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved HJR2 with support from both parties and the backing of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
If approved at the polls, Idaho would join 13 other states that have amended their constitutions to preserve into perpetuity the collective right to hunt, fish and trap. Several other states, including Wyoming, are considering similar measures Tuesday.
Supporters say protections are essential to preserving the right to hunt, fish and trap for future generations. They also see a constitutional amendment as a necessary firewall against efforts by out-of-state animal rights activists or changing public attitudes to curtail those activities.
"We live here in Idaho because we like the outdoors ... and all this does is protects for future generations that ability to go out and hunt and fish or trap," said Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, who led the legislative effort to get the question on the ballot.
But not everyone is convinced a constitutional amendment is necessary — especially for trapping.
Critics say trapping remains cruel and inhumane and a means of taking wildlife that doesn't enjoy the same overwhelming public support as hunting and fishing.
On the other end of the opposition spectrum, academics say the Idaho constitution was never intended to protect activities like hunting, fishing or trapping. State or federal constitutions, they say, are best used to protect the rights shared by all citizens, such as voting or freedom of speech.
David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, argues debates about the future of hunting, fishing and trapping are better off settled through public discourse and policy making in the halls of the Idaho statehouse.
"I think it's better to leave the resolution of competing views on trapping to the legislative process," Adler said.
The measure includes wording that the Idaho Attorney General Office believes preserves the ability of the state and Idaho Department of Fish and Game to continue to manage wildlife and hunting and fishing rules.
Foes also say the constitution was never intended to protect such activities.