Kentucky voters amended the state constitution Tuesday to forever protect their right to hunt and fish.
Voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment that the General Assembly passed in 2011 as a pre-emptive strike against anyone who would challenge Kentuckians' right to "harvest wildlife."
At present, nobody is lobbying against hunting and fishing in Kentucky or legally challenging it. But somebody in the future might have, such as an animal-rights group, said the amendment's sponsor, Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville. Now they can't, Combs said.
"I'm pleased with the overwhelming support," Combs said Tuesday evening. "I got a little nervous today when I started getting phone calls from people trying to figure it out, what it means."
The amendment, which takes effect immediately, states:
"The citizens of Kentucky have the personal right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, using traditional methods, subject only to statutes enacted by the legislature, and to administrative regulations adopted by the designated state agency to promote wildlife conservation and management and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing.
"Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights, or the regulation of commercial activities."
The politically powerful National Rifle Association pushed the hunting and fishing amendment in Kentucky and similar measures this fall in Idaho, Nebraska and Wyoming. A dozen states already have approved such amendments.
The amendment was the only one on this year's ballot. Kentuckians have amended their state constitution 41 times since approving it in 1891. They have rejected 38 proposed amendments.