Why it Matters: The use of ballot initiatives to ban hunting circumvents the legislative and regulatory process that provides the opportunity for input by professionals, for revisions, and considerations of broader impacts within the Colorado’s overall science-based management plan. These initiatives can allow wildlife management decisions to be made based on emotion rather than scientific principles, tying the hands of professional wildlife managers by restricting adaptive tools and methods necessary to achieve balanced and thriving ecosystems. Defeating this ballot initiative, called Initiative 91, keeps the authority to manage Colorado’s wildlife in the hands of the state’s professionals where it belongs.
- On November 8, a petition was filed with the Colorado Supreme Court by CSF’s partner organizations, signifying an appeal to the Colorado Title Board’s decision that it has jurisdiction over Initiative 91 and the initiative’s title that would appear on the ballot during the next general election.
- This appeal must be made because on September 22, anti-hunting advocates filed a proposed ballot measure in Colorado that seeks to ban all hunting and trapping of mountain lions, bobcats, and the federally protected Canada lynx.
- This ballot initiative is the result of the Colorado legislature voting down Senate Bill 22-031 (SB22-031), which also aimed to restrict predator management, circumvent the authority of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and erode the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation strongly opposed these efforts during the 2023 legislative session and is currently working with national and in-state partners to support legal appeals to Initiative 91, and oppose it should it qualify for the 2024 ballot.
After failing to advance their misguided policy during the 2023 Colorado Legislative Session, anti-hunting advocates have filed a proposed ballot measure that seeks to ban all hunting and trapping of mountain lions, bobcats, and the already federally protected Canada lynx. After their legislative proposal, Senate Bill 22-031 (SB22-031), was soundly defeated in a 4-1 vote in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee earlier this year, animal rights organizations are now attempting to circumvent the legislative process and instead get their hunting ban by placing it on the November 2024 ballot.
SB 22-031, and its repackaged ballot initiative version initially titled “Prohibit Trophy Hunting”, aim to remove Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) science-based management authority over wild felines by banning all legal mountain lion and bobcat hunting and trapping in the state. Efforts to have wildlife management decisions based on emotion rather than scientific principles ties the hands of professional wildlife managers by restricting adaptive tools and methods necessary to achieve balanced and thriving ecosystems.
Colorado state law makes it extremely easy for anyone to create a ballot initiative and circumvent the legislature with reduced options for opposition, and activists routinely take advantage of this fact. Nearly 100 ballot measures have been filed in Colorado this year alone. The first step in initiating the process is filing the request with the Colorado Legislative Council. The Legislative Council helps the submitting party turn their request into the proper legal format and language and provide insights into what the submitting party wishes to accomplish with their ballot measure.
Once the Legislative Council process is finished and the ballot measure is created, the proposal moves to the Colorado Title Board, which is comprised of one representative each from the Secretary of State’s office, the Attorney General’s office, and the Legislative Council. The Title Board’s role is to further review the ballot measure and establish the title that will be published and appear on the ballot. Proponents of the ballot measure are granted a hearing to provide their arguments as to the wording of the title.
It is only after this that opponents of the ballot measure are allowed to give their input, though what is allowable is very limited. Opponents may not make arguments regarding the constitutionality of the proposed measure, nor even its sensibility. All arguments from opponents are limited purely to the title itself. CSF’s partner organizations have had some success with this. The ballot initiative was initially entitled “Prohibit Trophy Hunting,” but because of the biased language, our team has successfully argued to have the words “trophy hunting” removed.
Now, our partner organizations have filed a petition with the Colorado Supreme Court challenging the Title Board’s assumption of jurisdiction over the measure based on the fact that the measure was substantially changed without additional review and comment by the Legislative Council, as required by Colorado law. Further, the petition to the Court asks the following questions:
- Whether the Title Board erred in setting a title for Initiative 91 because the measure is so broad and confusing that it is impossible for the Board to set an accurate title, and;
- Whether the Title Board erred in setting a title for Initiative 91 because it concerns multiple subjects, as Colorado law dictates that all ballot measures meet a single subject standard, and;
- Whether the Title Board erred by setting a title for Initiative 91 that is misleading and does not accurately reflect the purpose or effect of the measure.
Briefs from both proponents and opponents of Initiative 91 are due November 28, and answer briefs for the appeal will be due to the Court December 18. After that, the Court will review the arguments, arrive at a decision, and hand down their opinion, presumably in early 2024.
How the decision turns out will determine our next course of action. Regardless of the decision however, CSF and our partner groups in Colorado are doing everything possible to oppose Initiative 91 and the anti-hunting activist groups behind it. If efforts to stymie the initiative fail in the Colorado Supreme Court and it goes to the ballot, we will exhaust every effort to defeat it on Election Day. Please stay tuned for additional updates on these efforts and how to be involved.