Prairie dogs become a topic of debate in the legislature with two different views of the animal emerging.
And though Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha acknowledges he considers the creatures cute, he insists his aim is less about protecting them than it is about getting rid of a bad law.
Chambers has fallen short of the votes needed to repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act, which he claims tramples the rights to private property and could lead to the seizure of property without court approval or compensation to the owner.
“And it’s one of the most atrocious pieces of trash that I have ever seen, and it was put in place during the four years when I was not in the legislature,” Chambers says during legislative debate on his bill, LB 449, which would repeal it.
The law allows counties to adopt a resolution to control prairie dog populations. Counties would have to determine a prairie dog colony had an adverse impact and list proposed methods for management. A county could cooperate with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture as well as the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to control colonies.
Only Sheridan County has adopted a resolution under the law.
Chambers and other senators argued the law goes too far and is duplicative. Chambers advocates getting rid of the state law in favor of allowing federal officials through the USDA’s APHIS program to address any problems.
Some senators, including rural senators, have had second thoughts about the law, especially its seeming conflict with private property rights.
Rural senators don’t have second thoughts about the prairie dog. They see them as pests, which destroy pasture and crops and create holes in the ground which endanger cattle.
Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango says something must be done to keep prairie dog populations in check.
“This is the difference between reading in a book about prairie dogs and actually going and seeing the destruction that they cause,” Hughes tells colleagues during debate.
Chambers’ bill received a 21-17-8 vote, falling four short of the total needed to advance the bill.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]