Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Supreme court decides in favor of hunters

© By Othmar Vohringer

My good friend Peter Gussie of Midwest Cimmarron Archery in Richmond, Illinois, and board of directors member of the Archery Trade Association (ATA) sent me good news for bowhunters in Virginia that likely sets a nationwide precedence.

In mid-July the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower courts ruling that bowhunting is a safe science based wildlife management tool and that local communities cannot outlaw bowhunting programs that comply with directives from the wildlife agencies.

The Supreme Court, in choosing not to hear an appeal by the Reston Homeowners Association, also upheld a lower state court’s decision to allow the Archery Trade Association to recover all legal fees. After being alerted to the situation by the Suburban Bowhunters of Northern Virginia, the ATA brought legal action against the Reston Homeowners Association in January 2007. The ATA won the lawsuit in December 2007, and continued the fight after the homeowners’ association appealed to the Supreme Court in May of this year.

Due to the result of this court ruling bowhunters are able to return to the Roston’s woodlots this coming fall. Jay McAninch ATA President/CEO said.
“This is a huge victory for bowhunting, not only in Virginia, but quite likely nationwide. The Virginia Supreme Court reinforces four critical points that form the foundation of bowhunting in America.

  • First, bowhunting in urban areas can be done safely without putting people or property at risk.
  • Second, individual property owners can use bowhunting to address deer-damage and nuisance problems.
  • Third, wildlife is a public resource that’s held in trust and managed by states — in this case, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries — for the public’s benefit.
  • And four, individuals or a homeowners’ associations cannot usurp state authority, or use the courts to shut down or interfere with a legitimate bowhunting program. When people or groups violate these historical, well-established lines of authority and take actions based on personal opinions, it’s going to cost them.”
The Supreme Court ruling has put an end to a long legal dispute that began in 2004 when Reston Homeowner’s Association adopted a covenant to shut down the suburban bowhunting program. The bowhunters of Northern Virginia and two local residents alerted the ATA in 2006 about the bowhunting ban. The ATA filed complaint in January of 2007. Arguing that the covenant violated, among other things, Virginia’s Constitution regarding wildlife management. Virginia’s attorney general refused to enter the case to enforce the agency’s wildlife management authority. Upon which the ATA subpoenaed testimony from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

In December the local court ruled in favor of bowhuting and that the Homeowners Association did not have the authority to ban bowhunting. This ruling was uphels by the Virginia Supreme Court.

McAninch said.
“We’re extremely gratified to win a ruling of such high stature. This should set a strong precedent in Virginia and elsewhere. Virginia’s long-standing approach to urban deer depredation problems is to use bowhunting whenever possible. Bowhunters in Reston were part of that solution and had a proven track record. Unfortunately, the homeowners association went ahead and created their covenant even after they were advised they were exceeding their authority. The facts were against them from the start. Maybe now they’ve learned they can’t make laws just because they don’t like bowhunting. Just as importantly, when local groups force bowhunters to go to the courts to restore our rights, it’s going to cost them.”
I am extremely pleased with this outcome because it shows that we hunters do not have to put up with those that want to deny us our rights and freedoms. Hunting is not, as often falsely interpreted, a privilege. It is a right! One of the reasons why I like our North American hunting tradition is because, unlike anywhere else in the world, we have the right to hunt regardless of social, financial, racial or religious background. This is very unique and we need to protect that right so future generations can go hunting too. Hunters, as shown in this case, are not alone. There are many good organizations, such as the ATA, that will assist us in defending our rights from those that want to take it away from us.

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4 comments:

SimplyOutdoors said...

I had not heard of this Othmar, and I'm glad you pointed it out for all of us.

This is definitely a monumental ruling my the Supreme Court, and I'm very happy with their decision.

After some local townships tried to ban bowhunting, I'm glad to see that we definitely have a leg to stand on if something like this comes up again.

Tom Sorenson said...

I'd seen this was in court - hadn't heard the ruling till now. Great win for us - nice to see some hunting organizations gain some clout.

Jeff said...

I was not aware of this court case. Thanks for keeping us updated on such an important issue.

Rick Kratzke said...

I think this happens quite a bit. Maybe not on that big of a scale but it does happen. I am glad to see that the system worked in their favor.
Homeowners would be thinking twice if the deer population was getting out of control and there was no one to correct the problem.

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