Transportation and Telecommunications

Conservation exemption for road projects approved

A bill intended to better balance the conservation of Nebraska’s threatened and endangered species with highway maintenance received final approval from lawmakers April 11.

Sen. Mike Moser
Sen. Mike Moser

Under LB1335, sponsored by Columbus Sen. Mike Moser, the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act will not apply to any action of state agencies, political subdivisions or their contractors when designing, constructing, reconstructing, repairing, operating or maintaining transportation infrastructure, with some exceptions.

The act will apply to any initial action by an exempt party that creates new transportation infrastructure in areas not previously dedicated to the exempt party’s lawful duties or any subsequent action that increases the area of existing transportation infrastructure, which includes roads, streets and highways.

LB1335 also requires state agencies to ensure, in consultation with the state Game and Parks Commission, that any action authorized, funded or carried out by the agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.

Under the bill, public roads, streets, highways and any associated right-of-way are considered manmade structures and are not critical habitat for purposes of NESCA.

As part of the consultation process, the commission can permit an agency’s incidental taking of an endangered or threatened species.

The bill also requires an exempted party to consider a transportation project’s impact on endangered or threatened species and restore areas of temporary disturbance on real property it owns after construction, reconstruction, repair, operation or maintenance, to the extent it deems practical.

Additionally, LB1335 allows the commission to determine that any species of wildlife or wild plant should receive a different state-listed status after a change in its federal status by completing a formal listing process.

Except in certain circumstances, the commission cannot designate or remove designation of critical habitat for threatened or endangered species without first providing public notice and meeting several other requirements.

Senators voted 35-3 to pass the bill.

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