How Florida’s Amendment 2 could affect hunting and fishing

Gun Rights

Florida voters will decide in November whether to enshrine fishing and hunting as a constitutional right.

Backers of Amendment 2, including outdoors groups, say the proposal will protect Florida’s cultural heritage from “anti-hunting” threats.

Opponents say it could permit “objectionable” hunting practices and lead to unnecessary wildlife deaths. Groups like the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar and Sierra Club Florida have come out against it.

Here’s what to know.

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What would the amendment do?

Florida statutes already recognize the right to fish and hunt as a “valued part of the cultural heritage of Florida.”

The amendment would “preserve forever fishing and hunting, including by the use of traditional methods, as a public right and preferred means of responsibly managing and controlling fish and wildlife.” It would not limit the authority of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Lawmakers placed the initiative on the ballot last year. The measure passed unanimously in the Florida House and 38-1 in the Senate. Democratic Sen. Lauren Book cast the sole “no” vote.

What do supporters say?

Backers say the amendment, which has garnered bipartisan support, is necessary to combat future “anti-hunting” challenges.

Martha Guyas, the southeast fisheries policy director for the American Sportfishing Association, said fishing and hunting have been challenged in other states. She referenced a 2022 animal cruelty initiative in Oregon that critics said would have criminalized hunting, fishing and certain livestock management practices in the state. That initiative did not make the ballot.

“This is just getting ahead of any of those challenges in Florida,” Guyas said. “There are lots of times when something seems unforeseeable, but five or 10 years down the line becomes an issue.”

Rodney Barreto, vice chairperson of Yes On 2, the committee backing the amendment, said he wants to see hunting and fishing protections cast “in stone for future generations.”

“It’s a lifestyle in Florida,” Barreto said. “It’s about the way we were brought up and the right to have that not be taken away.”

Amendment 2 is supported by the National Rifle Association, the American Sportfishing Association, the Congressional Sportsman’s Association and other groups.

Florida has 242,000 hunters and 2.3 million resident anglers, according to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

What do critics say?

Opponents say the amendment is unnecessary.

“It’s not like you need the right to play tennis in Florida,” said Chuck O’Neal, chair of NoTo2.org, the committee opposing the amendment.

Detractors also worry the amendment would permit practices harmful to Florida’s wildlife. O’Neal said making fishing and hunting the “preferred means” of wildlife management could mean invasive animals are killed instead of relocated. That could have risky implications for black bears, he said, because interactions between humans and the animals have increased in recent years.

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Allowing “traditional methods” of fishing and hunting could justify trophy hunting, steel traps and other “primitive” techniques, he said.

“These are things that are traditional, but in the public are mostly objectionable,” he said. “It’s kind of putting a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

O’Neal is also concerned hunters could use the amendment to justify hunting on private property.

Conservation and legal groups like the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar have taken an active stance against the amendment.

“Hunting is not outlawed in any state,” Macie J.H. Codina and Savannah Sherman wrote in an op-ed on behalf of the Animal Law Section in May. They said there is little evidence of future threats in Florida.

“What there is evidence of,” Codina and Sherman wrote, “is the threat that Florida’s proposed constitutional amendment would present to wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole.”

Campaign finance

Yes On 2, the group sponsoring the amendment, has raised more than $450,000, including $100,000 from Florida’s agriculture commissioner, Wilton Simpson, and $250,000 from T. Roosevelt Action, a pro-hunting political committee. That’s hundreds of thousands more than NoTo2.org, which has raised just over $5,000. Most of those are individual donations ranging from $5 to $1,000.

O’Neal remains optimistic and said NoTo2.org has taken to social media to get the word out. “I have faith in the common sense of the voters,” he said.

The amendment needs the support of at least 60% of voters to pass in November.

Also on the ballot are amendments on school board elections, marijuana, abortion, inflation and campaign finance.

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