Prairie dog management discussed

Restrictions on prairie dog populations would be eased under legislation heard by the Agriculture Committee Feb. 4.

LB673, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, would repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act of 2012, which prohibits the uncontrolled spread of colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs. The bill gives county boards authority to administer the program.

Hailing the prairie dog as a species native to Nebraska that provides numerous ecological benefits, Chambers criticized the current law as unnecessary.

“This hit-and-miss method of saying a certain species of animal is to be managed is contrary to every scientific principle that could be imagined,” he said.

Chambers said the law is flawed because it allows the government unrestricted access to property where prairie dog colonies exist. According to the Act, he said, county agencies, based on landowner complaints, can exterminate prairie dogs without liability for any property damage that may occur.

Property disputes between neighbors can be addressed in court, Chambers said, and do not need to include species management.

Jarel Vinduska of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation testified in support of LB673, saying the current law is an “embarrassment” for Nebraska.

Creating regulations to manage native animals “doesn’t make any sense,” Vinduska said, because landowners already are allowed to control wildlife on their own property.

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, also spoke in favor of the bill. He said the current law puts county governments and landowners in an “extremely awkward situation” because of the passionate attitudes toward prairie dogs. Wildlife management should remain exclusively in the hands of each property owner, he said.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on LB673.

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