Ortt: Right to fish, hunt should be guaranteed by state constitution

May 18, 2017

A local state senator wants New York's constitution amended to guarantee the rights of residents to hunt and fish, joining 21 other states to enshrine those outdoor rights in their state charters.

Nearly every warm weather day in Western New York, you can see people fishing along the Niagara River or heading off on a boat to challenge the fish swimming in the river or Lakes Erie and Ontario.

Senator Robert Ortt says that is a pattern across Upstate New York, a cultural thing not always understood downstate, especially in New York City. Ortt says Albany is trying to take away those activities.

Credit WNED-TV

"The laws that have been passed over the last several years, whether it's the SAFE Act or other measures along that line," Ortt says. "You look at some regulations of the DEC and some of the things the environmental groups have pushed, I think there is a fear or a concern among hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen that these rights in a state like New York might be eroded."

Ortt says hunting and fishing are important in his district, for residents and for tourists.

"It's a significant number, certainly in Niagara County and certainly in Orleans County," he says. "There's an economic certainly impact. You look at Lake Ontario, maybe not today, certainly, with what's been going on, but some of the best salmon fishing anywhere in the world is right on Lake Ontario."

Lake Ontario's industry has been threatened by high waters that have yet to peak.

Ortt says Albany can still regulate hunting, fishing and trapping as it does now if his bill passes. He says putting these outdoor activities in the constitution does not mean hunters and anglers can go on private property as trespassers.

The North Tonawanda Republican says his proposal may come to the Senate floor for a vote in the next few weeks. Then it becomes a quest to persuade the State Assembly to pass the bill. If approved, the soonest such a constitutional amendment could come before voters would be 2019.