Former Director Opposes F&G Ballot Amendment

HJR 2, the proposed constitutional amendment to “insure hunting, fishing and trapping rights,” has language buried within which could potentially eliminate minimum water levels aimed at protecting Idaho fish.

“Shall Article I, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a New Section 23, to provide that the rights to hunt, fish and trap, including by the use of traditional methods, are a valued part of the heritage of the State of Idaho and shall forever be preserved for the people and managed through the laws, rules and proclamations that preserve the future of hunting, fishing and trapping; to provide that public hunting, fishing and trapping of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing wildlife; and to provide that the rights set forth do not create a right to trespass on private property, SHALL NOT AFFECT RIGHTS TO DIVERT, APPROPRIATE AND USE WATER, OR ESTABLISH ANY MINIMUM AMOUNT OF WATER IN ANY WATER BODY, shall not lead to a diminution of other private rights, and shall not prevent the suspension or revocation, pursuant to statute enacted by the Legislature, of an individual’s hunting, fishing or trapping license?”

The GUARDIAN talked with retired Idaho Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker about the proposed Hunting Fishing and Trapping amendment.

“There’s a heck of a lot of daylight between existing stream flow policy or legislation and a constitutional prohibition,” said Huffaker. “I see no valid reason to amend the constitution. We opposed similar attempts for 10 years and now they have inserted the water language which is certainly not good news for fish.”

In a nutshell, Huffaker said the net affect of the amendment would be to cast doubt on existing policies and open a potential loophole that could eliminate minimum streamflows and reservoir levels–conservation practices designed to protect Idaho fisheries during low water years. Say all you want about rights to fish, but without water the fish are gone.

We made several inquiries with state agencies and found staffers were gunshy about commenting. However Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office provided us with an OPINION requested last February by Senator Elliot Werk. The response was a bit murky, but the AG claimed the amendment language would not prohibit the legislature from establishing minimum stream flows or water levels.

Legislative observers told the GUARDIAN prohibition of minimum water levels was inserted to garner support of irrigators and other water users.

Idaho Fish and Game has “no position” on the measure, but the Commission which governs the agency came out with a “strongly” supporting passage.

UPDATE 10/28/12–
DAILY PAPER reporter Rocky Barker weighed in with a report from others concerned with the amendment.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Clippityclop
    Oct 26, 2012, 12:37 pm

    I agree with Mr. Huffaker. Furthermore, the trapping issue is a brutal one. As it stands, trappers are only expected to check their trap lines every 72 hours. Trapping itself is horrifically inhumane, but leaving a living creature in agony for that length of time is neither sportmanlike nor tolerable. Before you vote yes on this, please put your limb in a leg hold trap for three days. If you can tolerate that, be my guest.

  2. Water is a federal thing anyway

    EDITOR NOTE–Water is a STATE thing. That’s why water rights are established by the states, fishing regulations are state run. In Idaho it is the department of WATER RESOURCES. Anadromous fish are regulated in part by the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service because they run to the ocean and back.

  3. Yep, but if you start to pinch the fish the feds turn up.

  4. All this nonsense had to be a special interest grab of some kind and now we know… it is smoke and mirrors and deals with a water issue.

    We don’t need to change the Idaho Constitution to keep on doing what we do anyway with respect to hunting and fishing.

    I voted early and voted NO on all the constitution changes.

  5. Grumpy ole guy
    Oct 27, 2012, 2:57 pm

    Flyhead hits the nail squarely on the head, it is just plain silly to add to the Constitution, with all possible unintended ramifications and potential conflicting language, when laws and regulations govern such activities already.

    This is unnecessary, a special interest grab-bag. Vote early and often, as the late Mayor Daily of Chicago used to say.

  6. trapping is horrifaclly inhumane.. not as inhumane as what happens to alot of people… people need to start caring about others in their own species.. just sayin…..

  7. Who is behind this change?

  8. I think we should have a constitutional right to hunt….for grizzly bears, using a knife and face paint.

  9. Heh, agreed Bond.

    Fraz, thanks for publishing this. Might I have permission to republish with a attributive link redirecting people here?

    Permission granted!

  10. Our Founding Fathers wrote the US Constitution to protect rights they believed Americans already had. They felt that was necessary because they anticipated threats to those rights in the future.

    The rights to fish, trap and hunt come under fire every day in this country. That’s due to some religious zealots pushing their dogma on everyone else.

    California and Florida just severely limited certain sport-fisheries. CA just banned a hunting pursuit. Other states have trapping bans. Backcountry travel gets more restrictive every day… the list is endless.

    It IS time to protect the rights to hunt, trap and fish under the Idaho Constitution. And that’s what HJR2 is all about.

    EDITOR NOTE–It also allows water users to drain reservoirs and streams and prevent minimum stream flows to protect fish. We DO NOT need an amendment to hunt, fish and trap. Why did you folks push an amendment to take water from FISH of all things?

  11. Jared Boley
    Nov 4, 2012, 8:40 pm

    Editor: I suggest you talk with the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation about such concerns. You also asked for an opinion which you paid no attention. The Idaho Department of water resources wanted that wording included so someone with a private fishing pond couldn’t demand a canal system or other means of water diversion continue to supply water to their pond to sustain their right to fish.

    EDITOR NOTE–We don’t question the motive of the amendment, only the wording. It says…” SHALL NOT AFFECT RIGHTS TO DIVERT, APPROPRIATE AND USE WATER, OR ESTABLISH ANY MINIMUM AMOUNT OF WATER IN ANY WATER BODY…” which flies in the face of your comment.

    Nov 5, 2012, 7:01 am


    I wonder why you even offer people the ability to add comments if you are simply going to put your spin on every one. Your comments regarding water and water rights are false, but you continue to use them as a backboard to oppose a measure that solidifies rights of Idahoans. You would probably earn a lot more respect (and less skepticism) by letting comments inform, educate or humor your readers rather than you trying to force feed your agenda with editor comments on any positive comments.

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