Heineman Vetoes Bill to Ban Mountain Lion Hunting

Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed LB 671, a bill that would outlaw cougar and mountain lion hunting in Nebraska.

This bill was introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha.

LB 671 would have repealed 2012 legislation that authorized mountain lion hunting in Nebraska by allowing the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to provide permits for hunting mountain lions. Gov. Heineman signed this bill into law in 2012 after it passed in the Legislature with a vote of 49-0.

In a message to lawmakers on Friday, Heineman said the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission should have the power to manage the mountain lion population for the health and safety of residents. Nebraska approved its mountain lion hunting season in 2012, with then-unanimous support in the Legislature.

Heineman says he also was concerned that the bill could be unconstitutional because of a recent statewide vote that placed hunting, fishing and trapping rights in the Nebraska constitution.

The bill to end the season was introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers. Chambers, of Omaha, has said the mountain lions pose no real threat to humans.

Gov. Heineman noted in his veto message to State Senators that, “the majority of you supported the enactment of that law.”

The Governor’s veto letter follows:

Dear Mr. President and Members of the Legislature:

I am returning LB 671 without my signature and with my objections.

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.

I am concerned that LB 671 is potentially unconstitutional as it prohibits wildlife management of mountain lions through hunting. The majority of Nebraskans expressed, through the 2012 adoption of Article XV, Section 25 of the Nebraska Constitution 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.

For these reasons, I respectfully urge you to sustain my veto of this bill.

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