Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed the bill that outlawed mountain lion hunting in Nebraska.
LB 671 was sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, an adamant opponent of mountain lion hunting, especially the initial hunt that allowed hunters to use dogs to hunt the big cats.
Heineman noted in his veto statement that the Unicameral only recently authorized the hunts by a unanimous vote.
“LB 671 would repeal authorization for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to issue permits for hunting mountain lions. In 2012, I signed LB 928 to grant the Commission the authority to permit the hunting of mountain lions. The majority of you supported the enactment of that law.
Nebraskans expect responsible wildlife management. LB 671 eliminates an important tool used to accomplish it. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission should retain the ability to determine those management actions which are necessary to protect both the health and safety of our citizens and the wildlife in our state. Removing the agency’s authority to manage mountain lions through hunting at this time is poor public policy.”
Heineman also expressed concerns that the bill would violate a new provision of the state constitution that protects the right of Nebraskans to hunt and fish. The governor noted a section of the constitutional amendment states that “hunting, fishing, and harvesting of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.”
“This provision of our Constitution is so new there is no clearly established law that tests its reach. However, LB 671 could be challenged as infringing upon Article XV, Section 25 because it precludes hunting which is now established as ‘preferred means’ of wildlife management. Even if LB 671 is not unconstitutional, it fails to respect the will of Nebraska’s citizens on this issue,” Heineman wrote in his veto statement to legislators.
LB 671 initially passed on a 31-5 vote. Opposition mounted against the measure, though. An agreement ended a threatened filibuster against on final reading, a rarity in the Unicameral. It eventually passed on a 28-13 vote, which would be two votes short of the total needed to override a veto.
The legislature gave authorization to the Game and Parks Commission to hold mountain lion hunts in 2012 on a 49-0 vote.
Two male mountain lions were taken in the first hunt authorized by Game and Parks this year. One hunter paid more than $13,000 for one permit. A teen-ager won the second permit through a lottery.
The second hunt ended when a female mountain lion was taken.
There are an estimated 15 to 22 mountain lions in Nebraska.