Repeal of prairie dog management act vetoed

Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed a bill April 23 that repealed the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act.

The act, which was passed by the Legislature in 2012, authorizes county boards to adopt and carry out coordinated management programs to control black-tailed prairie dog colonies on property within the county. LB449, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, would have repealed the act.

The law requires a landowner to effectively manage prairie dog colonies on his or her property to prevent them from expanding to adjacent property if the owner objects to the expansion. If a landowner does not provide evidence that a colony is being managed within 60 days of a county board’s notice, the county may enter upon the property to manage the prairie dogs.

The landowner is responsible for any expenses, and unpaid assessments become a lien on the property. Landowners who do not comply also could receive a fine of up to $1,500. The law allows a county to file a foreclosure suit to recover the debt.

Lawmakers voted 26-13 to pass the bill April 18, the final day of the 2018 session.

Chambers has said the act violates property owners’ rights by allowing government agents to come onto their land without notice when a neighbor makes an unverified complaint about prairie dogs on the property.

In his veto message, Ricketts said that repealing the act would fail to protect the property rights of landowners who are harmed by the spread of prairie dogs from a neighbor’s property. He said the law provides an incentive for landowners to manage prairie dogs on their property and that counties have used it “judiciously.”

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