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Hunting ban called unconstitutional

Ben Godar

The City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to reinstate a bow-hunting ban,

even though officials with the state Department of Fish and Game

contend the ordinance is unconstitutional.

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A ban on bow-and-arrow hunting in the city’s stretch of the

Verdugo Mountains went into effect in January, but was put on hold

March 4 after opponents charged the city should have first completed

an environmental impact study. City staff has since finished the

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study, and found the ban would not affect deer populations.

Now that the council has voted to reinstate the ban, the city

could face a legal challenge from the Department of Fish and Game. In

a letter to city officials, Fish and Game general counsel Michael

Valentine said the ban was unconstitutional because it infringes on

the department’s authority to regulate hunting throughout the state.

In a memo to the council, Assistant City Atty. Mary Riley said the

ban is constitutional because the city has the authority to pass

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regulations to protect public health and safety. But Fish and Game

officials said in the 20 years they have recorded statistics, there

have been no reports of injuries caused by bow-hunting in the Burbank

area.

“We’ve been given no information to support the idea that it’s a

health and safety risk in those areas,” Valentine said.

Councilman Jef Vander Borght said even though there have been no

injuries as a result of bow hunting, the increasing number of hikers

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in the area increases the potential for such an incident.

“If we don’t have this restriction, something is likely to happen

in the future,” he said prior to the council meeting.

Vander Borght also said he agreed with the assessment by city

staff that the city is within its jurisdiction to pass the ordinance

in the interest of public safety.

Burbank is unique in that bowhunting areas are contained within

city limits, Fish and Game Assistant Chief Joe Gonzales said. While

he was unaware of any other city that has tried to enact such an

ordinance in relation to bow-hunting, Gonzales said bans on trapping

in several northern California cities have been successfully

challenged by the department.

Fish and Game officials planned to wait until the city took action

on the issue before discussing the possibility of legal action,

Gonzales said.

“I hoped they would at least revisit the issue and consider the

case law we referred to in hopes we could work something out prior to

any legal ramifications,” he said.


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