Gov. Dave Heineman has vetoed a proposed ban on hunting mountain lions in Nebraska, setting up an override fight.
The Legislature legalized hunting mountain lions, sometimes called cougars, two years ago, and this year marked the first hunting season, with three of the cats killed. This week, lawmakers reversed themselves and voted to ban mountain lion hunting once more. Friday, Heineman said it should be left up to Nebraska’s Game and Parks Commission to decide whether there should be a hunting season.
“The 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 said.
In his veto letter to the Legislature, the governor also said the bill fails to respect the will of Nebraska’s citizens and may violate the Nebraska Constitution’s protections for hunting, which voters approved by a 3-1 margin in 2012.
Sen. Ernie Chambers sponsored the bill banning mountain lion hunting. He argued the state should protect native species. And he said the hunts are primarily a money and publicity-generating activity for Game and Parks, which could manage mountain lions on its own if need be.
Chambers’ bill still allows people to kill mountain lions if they threaten people or livestock. That happened last week in Sheridan County, where a landowner killed a cat that approached his chicken coop.
The bill passed on a vote of 28-13, with eight senators not voting. It would take 30 votes to override the veto. Chambers said he will attempt an override.
Editor’s note: Heineman has scheduled a news conference Saturday afternoon to announce his budget vetoes. NET News will report on those vetoes Saturday afternoon at 4:37 Central, and online at netnebraska.org/news.