House kills bill to make hunting, fishing constitutional rights

Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – The Montana House of Representatives killed a bill Wednesday that would have asked voters to make hunting, fishing and trapping a constitutional right. Senate Bill 236 passed the Senate on a 30-to-20 vote back in March.

The bill would have put the issue on the 2018 ballot.

If approved, the measure would have also added protections for customary means and methods, like bow hunting or hunting with dogs. Additionally, it would have given the public preference in any hunting, fishing or trapping used for wildlife management.

The Constitution already states that harvesting wild fish and game is a heritage that will always be maintained for Montana citizens. Neither the bill nor the current Constitution creates a right to trespass or diminish any other private rights.

Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls

“Why we would want to go out and meddle with something that is so simple, so clean and so effective is beyond me,” said Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls.

The bill failed on a 48-51 vote. Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, carried it through the Senate, and Rep. Kirk Wagoner, R-Montana City, carried it in the House.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.