Natural Resources

Conservation exemption for road projects amended, advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval March 20 to a bill intended to better balance the conservation of Nebraska’s threatened and endangered species with highway maintenance.

Sen. Mike Moser
Sen. Mike Moser

Under LB1335, as introduced by Columbus Sen. Mike Moser, the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act would not apply to the actions of state agencies or political subdivisions in certain circumstances when they design, construct, reconstruct, repair, operate or maintain transportation infrastructure, including roads, streets and highways.

Moser said the act is too restrictive and prevents the state Department of Transportation from balancing the needs of the state’s transportation system with conservation efforts.

Under the bill, the act would apply to any initial action by an exempted party that creates new transportation infrastructure in areas not previously dedicated to it or any subsequent action that increases the area of existing transportation infrastructure.

Exempted parties could ask the state Game and Parks Commission for support and recommendations relating to transportation infrastructure projects’ potential impact on threatened or endangered species.

A Natural Resources Committee amendment, adopted 36-0, replaced the bill with a modified version of the original proposal.

Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, the committee chairperson, said that, among other changes, the amendment would create a consultation process by which the commission could permit a state agency’s incidental taking of an endangered or threatened species.

Under the amendment, an exempted party also would be required to restore areas of temporary disturbance on real property it owns after construction, reconstruction, repair, operation or maintenance to the extent it deems practical.

Additionally, the amendment would allow 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 could not designate or remove designation of critical habitat for threatened or endangered species without first providing public notice and meeting several other requirements.

LB1335 advanced to select file on a vote of 39-0.

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