Why Maine’s “Right to Food” Initiative Should Excite Sportsmen and Women in the Pine Tree State

Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States

Highlights

  • On November 2, Maine residents solidified their “Right to Food” across the state by voting in resounding support – over 60% in favor – of ballot Question 3.
  • Question 3 protects Mainers’ “unalienable right to food,” which includes, but is not limited to, the right to “harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.”
  • Question 3 is the result of LD 95, a bill supported by several Maine Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus members, receiving two-thirds votes in both chambers of the Legislature – the necessary threshold for inclusion on the ballot.
  • Though not an explicit right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds the Pine Tree State for its initiative with this constitutional amendment, which shores up protections for the harvesting of game.

Why it Matters: Sportsmen and women have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served a shining beacon for the management of fish and wildlife and their habitats. Despite the ASCF’s success in funding state fish and wildlife agencies (most of which receive approximately 80% of their funding through this distinct conservation system, though some states still rely nearly 100% on sportsmen and women) and their conservation projects, there are those who wish to undermine the System. Initiatives such as Question 3 ensure that sportsmen and women have an unencumbered right to harvesting game.

On November 2, voters in Maine took an incredible step towards securing and protecting the right to harvest game. Included on the ballot was Question 3, which read as follows: “All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food” (emphasis added). Through garnering the support of over 60% of the voting public, Mainers may feel confident in their abilities to harvest game going forward.

Question 3 came after LD 95 – legislation supported by members of the Maine Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus that brought forth the language to be included in the referendum – received two-thirds votes of support in both the House and the Senate earlier this year. LD 95 paved the way for including Question 3 on the ballot, securing the “Right to Food” for the Pine Tree State. Where there is an unalienable right to harvest and consume food, there are protections to hunt and fish.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds the voters in Maine for the overwhelming support for Question 3, and it welcomes the added protections that it provides sportsmen and women in harvesting their own quarry.

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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