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UA prof objects to Arizona hunting legislation

By Jeff Jensen
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
March 6, 2000
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Several Arizona legislators are trying to amend the constitution to require a two-thirds vote on any legislation that affects hunting in Arizona, drawing criticism from a UA professor and other lawmakers.

The proposed legislation states that "an initiative that permits, limits or prohibits the taking of wildlife, or the methods or seasons thereof, shall not become law unless approved by at least two-thirds of the votes cast on the proposition."

Rep. Leah Landrum, R-Phoenix, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that she will not support this legislation.

"The two-thirds vote is unfair," Landrum said. "This would be making it harder for people to get involved in the legislative process."

Paul Krausman, a renewable natural resources professor at the University of Arizona, shared this view.

"First of all, wildlife belongs to the people," Krausman said. "This is the basis of wildlife conservation since the turn of the century."

The amendment is led by Speaker Jeff Groscost, R-Mesa. Other members of the group include Reps. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, and Debra Brimhall, R-Snowflake.

This proposal has already passed in the majority and minority caucus, a second and third read in the House, and a first and second read in the Senate. The amendment is currently in committee.

Rep. Lori Daniels, R-Chandler, said although she is listed as a co-sponsor of the bill, she rejects its premise.

"Before the session, the speaker asked me to sign on to the bill," Daniels said. "Many times, a member will sign on to a bill and later not support it. That is the case here."

Daniels said requiring a two-thirds vote would be unconstitutional.

"I don't believe that we should empower the minority by requiring a two-thirds vote," Daniels said.

Many legislators have taken issue with the bill because of its implications on "contest hunts."

Contest hunts allow hunters with permits to shoot as many coyotes as they can, often with an award going to the one who kills the most.

"I don't think that predator hunts are the answer because you're dealing with an unknown quantity out there," Krausman said. "There are probably better ways to do it."

"You wouldn't go to a wildlife biologist if you had a legal problem. It seems like with wildlife management, often times, they don't go to the experts, they go to the public," he added. "I am a strong proponent that we need to manage wildlife scientifically."

Opponents of the contest hunts won an early round when the Arizona Game and Fish Commission passed a regulation banning the hunts.

On Feb. 1, the Governor's Regulatory Review Council overturned this decision, saying that it would hurt sports shops and hunt sponsors economically.

"If you determine that the predators are the limiting factors, and you shoot predators until the cows come home, and the limiting factor is the environment, then you haven't done boo-diddly-squat," Krausman said. "In my mind, killing an animal just to kill an animal doesn't have any merit."

Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, said she supports the legislation.

"The wildlife groups want to be assured that the initiative process is not abused, especially since there is no way to fix an outdated or flawed ballot proposal," Knaperek said. "The two-thirds vote puts this issue on a higher level of debate."

Animal rights activists are working on an initiative that would force the matter to a vote on Nov. 7. Hunters, however, are looking to counter this with the new legislative action.

Arizonans for Wildlife Conservation, a group that consists almost exclusively of hunting enthusiasts, are pushing legislators to pass the legislation.

With Groscost as a prime supporter, the bill is making rapid progress. But Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Wettaw opposes this amendment, and he has refused to hear the legislation.

"We do not need to change our initiative process," Landrum said. "I think that in the end, this would hurt both sides (of the issue)."

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