Maine leads the way on hunting rights

Like so many voters who try to stay informed, articles about the pro and con of the high-profile CMP corridor referendum monopolized most of my attention. Pulling the curtain behind me at the polls, I was prepared — or, at least, so I thought. Referendum Question 2, money for highways and bridges, was a shoe-in. A given, it required little homework. These highway bond referendums always pass handily. Anyone who votes against these highway funding issues is spitting into the wind.

What about Question 3, the right to food? Frankly, this one caught me unprepared. For whatever reason — my own negligence or lack of media coverage — the far-reaching implications of this state constitutional change were not known to me there in the Ellsworth polling booth. Taking my time, a careful read was in order before filling in the circle on the ballot.

In reading it, my assumption, misguided perhaps, was that the right to food measure was to simply protect the back-to-landers, who want to grow cannabis, special mushrooms, herbs or what have you. Despite my conservative law-and-order bent, it has long seemed to me silly to jail people for growing things in their backyard, whatever the crop.

Question 3 got my vote.

And guess what? Unknowingly, in supporting Question 3, I also by sheer good luck simultaneously cast my vote to give Maine hunting rights state constitutional protection! The constitutional amendment as worded protects my right “to harvest food of my choosing.” According to David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), Maine is the first state in the nation to enact such a constitutional provision. He expects other states to follow suit.

Trahan also observes that this “new right establishes reasonable boundaries to protect us (hunters) from animal rights activists.” Apparently, there was a lot of opposition to this constitutional amendment, not only from the Farm Bureau, but a number of animal rights organizations.

Ironically, a number of previous attempts to add hunting rights to the state constitution have failed over the years. And for what it is worth, the legislative debate leading up to this recent protection clause further defined and reinforced the definition of the word “harvest” to mean hunting and fishing.

This is all good. In retrospect, though, given the groundbreaking implications of Question 3 it really deserved much more media coverage than it got. Still, this may not have been a bad thing, for obvious reasons.

Much of the credit for this proposal goes to state Sen. Craig Hickman of Winthrop and state Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor.

Hunting rights aside, this constitutional right to raise and gather our own food may be timely, given fast-rising inflation and supply chain issues. Maine is at the end of the national supply chain. And, as Sen. Hickman pointed out, “Maine is the most food-insecure state in the nation.”

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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