- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Supporters of a bill that would outlaw mountain lion hunting in Nebraska have failed to override Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto.

Lawmakers fell six votes short Wednesday of the 30 needed for an override. Heineman rejected the bill last week, saying the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission should have the power to manage the animals.

“Nebraskans expect responsible wildlife management,” Heineman said in a letter to lawmakers. The bill “eliminates an important tool used to accomplish it,” he said.

Heineman said he also was concerned that the bill could run afoul of a recent statewide vote that placed hunting, fishing and trapping rights in the Nebraska Constitution.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha introduced the mountain lion bill. He argues that cougars pose no real threat to humans - and that if they did, state law already allows people to kill them in order to defend themselves or their property.

The state approved mountain lion hunting in 2012. Chambers was briefly out of office then because of term limits.

“These mountain lions do not belong to Game and Parks,” Chambers said. “They do not belong to the hunters. They belong to the people of this state. And beyond the people of this state, they belong to ecology. They belong to nature.”

Opponents in the Legislature have joined Heineman in arguing that Game and Parks should keep its regulatory power.

Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue voted against the override. The Legislature shouldn’t be doing the commission’s job, he said.

“Let the experts make the decision,” he said.

Mountain lions are native to Nebraska but vanished in the late 1800s after settlers started poisoning and hunting them. The first modern-day sighting was in 1991. Chambers has argued that, since that time, no one in Nebraska has been attacked.

Chambers introduced a motion Wednesday to reconsider the vote so that lawmakers might revisit the issue this year.

The motion keeps the bill before the Legislature, in case Chambers decides to act on the motion.

Chambers said he is going to continue to fight for what he calls the animals’ right to exist.

“I am going to continue this struggle,” he said. “I have six years. I’ve put a lot into this bill.”

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The bill is LB671.

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