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In this week’s article, I want to talk about the interim hearing that the Natural Resources Committee held last month in Scottsbluff and McCook. LR 142 was introduced to take an in-depth look at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, especially how they are handling big game wildlife management. Part of the discussion during the interim hearings also included the management of the state’s recreational areas, in particular, Lake McConaughy and Hugh Butler Lake north of McCook.
In Scottsbluff, we heard testimony from several landowners who are having major problems with either deer, elk, antelope, or mountain lions on their properties. One landowner had documented the damage caused to one of his pivots of corn last year and it amounted to over $100,000.00. He provided a yield map from last year’s harvest along with facts and figures of the cost to condition his cow herd ahead of pasturing that pivot because of all of the corn knocked down by the elk so as not to lose any of his cattle to acidosis. Interestingly, just within the last couple of weeks, the commission has issued 50 elk kill permits for this landowner’s property due to a drone video of the same herd in his cornfield causing tremendous amounts of damage again this year. Unfortunately, it took interim hearings for the commission to respond to the ongoing mass destruction to help alleviate future damage. I have heard from landowners over the past five years and up until now, the commission has not responded as fully as they should have. Several of the commissioners were in attendance in both Scottsbluff and McCook and I am hopeful their first-hand experience of the frustration of landowners with the commission’s management of big game will help the commission change its management of the situation. When I hear comments from a state agency that part of the problem was that landowners were planting a lot more corn than they have in the past, it concerns me that there is little regard for the landowners who need to make a profit to stay in business.
The fact that the landowners who are paying the feed bill for the state’s wildlife without any compensation whatsoever is wrong. And that same attitude is held by many within the hunting community as well. Some may think that because farmers receive subsidies from the federal government that they have the right to hunt anywhere they want on the farmer’s land. The federal farm subsidies that we all help pay for are not for access, and certainly, do not authorize hunters to trespass. They do entitle the people of the United States to one of the safest food supplies in the world, one of the most abundant food supplies in the world, and one of the cheapest food supplies in the world. The commission needs to keep in mind that they have tremendous responsibilities not only to the hunters but to those who are trying to make a living. It is time for some changes in how the commission manages its responsibilities. I believe we have made a clear statement that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission needs to be more responsive to the complaints of landowners who have large herds of big game destroying their crops and pastures.