BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho voters have agreed to amend the state constitution to protect forever the right to hunt, fish and trap.
As returns trickled in Tuesday night, it was clearly early on HJR2 would gain wide support in a state where hunting and fishing are immensely popular and important drivers of local economies.
By early Wednesday morning, with 59 percent of Idaho's 947 precincts reporting, the constitutional amendment had won support from 74.3 percent of voters. Results showed that not a single county came close to voting down HJR, though no results had been reported from central Idaho's Blaine County, which served as the epicenter of some of the opposition generated by the measure.
Idaho now joins 13 other states that have added similar language into their state constitutions.
Idaho lawmakers have made several attempts to approve a constitutional amendment preserving the right to hunt, fish and trap. But each time, the idea was opposed by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. This year, however, the commission endorsed it. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game did not take an official position.
The amendment, approved by Republicans and Democrats alike during the 2012 Legislature, is worded in a way that enables IDFG to continue managing hunting and fishing and to set regulations on trapping.
In making their case for the constitutional amendment, supporters claimed protections are essential to preserving the right to hunt, fish and trap for future generations. They also see a constitutional amendment as a necessary firewall against efforts by out-of-state animal rights activists or changing public attitudes to curtail those activities.
"We live here in Idaho because we like the outdoors ... and all this does is protects for future generations that ability to go out and hunt and fish or trap," said Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, who led the legislative effort to get the question on the ballot.
The amendment collected yes votes from more than 80 percent of voters in several counties, including Benewah, Bingham, Butte, Cassia, Clearwater, Franklin, Fremont, Jefferson, Jerome, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Minedoka and Oneida.
Despite the overwhelming support at the ballot box, the measure had detractors — especially with the inclusion of trapping.
Critics say trapping remains cruel and inhumane and a means of taking wildlife that doesn't enjoy the same overwhelming public support as hunting and fishing.
On the other end of the opposition spectrum, academics said the Idaho constitution was never intended to protect activities like hunting, fishing or trapping. State or federal constitutions, they say, are best used to protect the rights shared by all citizens, such as voting or freedom of speech.