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Contract hunting: Ban would harm property owners

February 20. 2012 5:34PM

How does prohibiting a specific use of one's property protect private property rights? To get the answer, you'll have to ask Rep. Joe Duarte, R-Candia. He not only claims that it can be done, but that he's done it.

Duarte is a co-sponsor of House Bill 1339. It would prohibit anyone with a hunting, fishing or trapping license from paying a private property owner for the exclusive rights to hunt, fish or trap on said owner's property. This is plainly an abridgement of both private property rights and the right to contract. Duarte, though, says it isn't.

'This bill would prevent giving exclusive right to hunt for payment and excludes others who have the right to hunt while protecting property rights by placing the penalty on the licensee,' he claims in the House Fish and Game Committee's report recommending passage of the bill.

In other words, Duarte says the property owner's rights are protected because the bill prohibits the hunter, not the property owner, from entering into a contract for exclusive hunting rights.

That's preposterous. The bill would ban property owners from leasing their own land to anyone, even friends or family members, for the purpose of hunting, trapping or fishing. In a rural state that relies as heavily as New Hampshire does on property taxes, that would deprive some landowners of a source of revenue that could mean the difference between their being able to keep their property or being forced to sell it.

This bill ought to be rejected as the unnecessary infringement on property and contract rights that it so obviously is.

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