Newsletter February 21, 2014
Mountain lions have been in the news lately. The first mountain lion hunting permits for the first season were issued in December and the second season is underway. I haven’t seen a mountain lion in the wild, but there is evidence of their presence in District 41, including where I live in Boone County. Mountain lions are beautiful animals to be sure, and we are seeing them more often in central Nebraska.
Does Nebraska need a mountain lion hunting season? I’m not sure. Regardless, I am very skeptical about how the first permits were distributed and the way the hunts were conducted. Hunting with dogs and shooting a treed mountain lion at close range doesn’t seem too sporting.
Even though mountain lions have been seen and “heard” (their ‘scream’ is apparently quite terrifying) near the Valley County farm/ranch where I grew up, they haven’t caused problems on our property with livestock, mainly cows and calves.
It is important that landowners, homeowners, farmers, ranchers have the right to protect themselves and their livestock and, if necessary, to kill a mountain lion that is threatening them. State law already gives farmers, ranchers and individuals a legal right to protect themselves and their livestock from mountain lions in NRS §37-559, state law since 1998. The law allows farmers or ranchers to destroy a mountain lion if the animal is in the process of stalking, killing or consuming livestock on their property. It also also allows persons to defend themselves against a mountain lion without penalty if the animal stalks, attacks or shows unprovoked aggression towards them.
So – does Nebraska truly need a mountain lion hunting season? I don’t know. If, according to Game & Parks, hunting is necessary to control the population, that decision should be based on facts. What is Nebraska’s mountain lion population and how many remain based on recent permitted kills and accidental deaths by traps or vehicles? Perhaps the deaths in the last six months have controlled the population. When we talk about controlling animal populations, I’m certain much more needs to be done to actively control our deer population.
The Natural Resources Committee advanced LB 671, Senator Chambers’ personal priority bill, last week. The bill was debated for the first time today. Senator Chambers feels so strongly about repealing mountain lion hunting that he vowed to stop all other Game and Parks legislation. Two bills advanced by the Revenue Committee are in his sights. The bills would divert sales tax revenue derived from the sale of motor boats and all terrain vehicles, excluding farm use, to a park maintenance fund.
I support this idea. Our parks are in critical condition, in need of upgrades and improvements. A dedicated revenue stream will undoubtedly help. However, I’m always concerned about earmarking state revenues for specific purposes. As a result, I suggested a five-year sunset provision on the earmark. In five years, the Legislature can review the earmark to determine what the funding has accomplished and how state revenues are faring.
Here’s where compromise enters in. A great deal of our work in the Unicameral is about compromise. If there is support for LB 671, Senator Chambers will not obstruct passage of bills increasing revenue for Game and Parks maintenance. Parks maintenance funding? Continued mountain lion hunting? Which one? It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to accomplish both this session.
There are strongly held opinions on these issues, but only a bare handful of constituents have contacted me and their opinions are divided. LB 671 easily advanced to select file today without my vote. If you live in District 41 and you oppose or support LB 671, please let me know before the next round of floor debate. If you’ve already contacted me, your name/position are on file so there’s no need to contact me again on this issue.