Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Arizona voters: Keep politicians' hands off our wildlife!

There's so much at stake this election day, including the future of wildlife management and open space in Arizona. Prop. 109, touted as necessary to protect hunting and fishing from animal rights activists, is a thinly disguised power grab by politicians. It would allow the state legislature to take complete control of state-level wildlife policy and invite lawsuits to overturn laws that regulate hunting and fishing, either of which would be a disaster.

The Arizona legislature hates it when voters keep something out of their hands. Ever since the people approved a plan to reserve up to $20 million each year from the state lottery for state parks and nongame projects (the Heritage Fund), the legislature has tried to get control over the money. After running the state's finances deep into the ground, they finally succeeded in stealing the state parks portion of the Heritage Fund by repealing the statutes enacted by the people. They even stole private money donated toward ensuring a future for our state parks. In a tourism-dependent state teetering on the brink of economic disaster, this is shooting us all in the foot.

But were the politicians satisfied with that? Nooooo. Now they and their special-interest puppetmasters have cooked up this ugly piece of work, Proposition 109:
A "yes" vote shall have the effect of:

1. making hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife a constitutional right,

2. giving the State Legislature exclusive authority to enact laws regulating these activities,

3. prohibiting laws that unreasonably restrict hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife or the use of traditional means and methods, and

4. establishing hunting and fishing as a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife
Promoters of 109 insist that they are only trying to protect hunting and fishing from being outlawed by animal rights activists. One problem: There is no such threat to hunting and fishing in Arizona. If there was, and it had any chance of succeeding, how could this proposition have any hope of passage? It's pure paranoid fantasy designed to manipulate naive citizens into supporting the takeover of the Arizona Game & Fish Department and its hunting and fishing revenues by the legislature and special interests.

The vague wording of Prop 109 allows the legislature to bypass the Game & Fish Commission (whose makeup is already under their control thanks to a recent power grab), making the Arizona Game & Fish Department directly responsible to a body of non-biologist politicians who have proven themselves incompetent even at those tasks normally delegated to a legislature. As one commenter said, "These nutballs would screw up a one car funeral."

Conferring constitutional-right status on hunting and fishing, declaring these activities to be the preferred means of managing wildlife, and prohibiting laws that "unreasonably" restrict these activities invites lawsuits over seasons, bag limits, area closures, etc., severely limiting the state's ability to manage wildlife for the benefit of all its residents, not just the 9% of Arizonans who hunt and/or fish (the fourth lowest population of sportspersons of any state in the U.S.; source). Prop 109 is opposed by former members of the Game & Fish Commission as well as mainstream conservation and humane organizations and a number of newspapers, including the conservative Arizona Republic.

The politicians are also trying to get their hands on the Land Conservation Fund, one of our best tools to preserve the best of Arizona's remaining open spaces and the wildlife, rural communities, and quality of life that depend on them. Prop 301 would allow the legislature to subvert the will of the people of Arizona by draining the Land Conservation Fund to apply a pitifully inadequate band-aid to the hemmoraging state budget.

Neighbors, please vote to support wildlife and open space by voting NO on Prop 301 and Prop 109. Don't reward our legislators for their irresponsibility or allow them to make wildlife management any more political than it already is. --SW