Gov. Heineman Vetoes Bill to Ban Mountain Lion Hunting


Gov. Dave Heineman has vetoed a bill that would ban mountain lion hunting in Nebraska.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha introduced LB 671 to repeal legislation that allowed the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to provide permits for hunting mountain lions. Chambers said he cannot tolerate the killing of animals for trophies, while opponents of the ban say hunting is a responsible way to manage wildlife.

Heineman signed the previous bill into law in 2012 after it passed in the Legislature with a 49-0 vote, a fact that the governor noted in his veto message to lawmakers. 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.

This was the first year permits were issued in Nebraska to hunt the animal. A lottery was used to give hunters a chance at a permit, and the regulations stated the season is over once two males or one female is killed.

The bill to ban mountain lion hunting does maintain exceptions that allow farmers and ranchers to kill mountain lions that threaten their property, and individuals who feel threatened by attack.

The Legislature will now have to take a vote to possibly override the governor's veto.

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.