- Associated Press - Thursday, January 28, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Wildlife enthusiasts could show their love for mountain lions with a special Nebraska license plate if a bill advanced Thursday becomes law.

Senators gave first-round approval to a measure that would offer “mountain lion conservation plates” through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, well-known animal lover, said he introduced the proposal because of the public’s interest in preserving the mountain lion population.

“I have heard from a number of people that they would purchase these plates,” Chambers said. “There is a tremendous amount of support for conserving the small population of mountain lions which we have in this state”

The measure would impose a $5 fee for the plates, with the revenue going to a state program that educates youth about wildlife conservation. Personalized plates would cost $40.



Chambers has spent the last several years trying to abolish Nebraska’s mountain lion hunting season, arguing that the animals don’t pose a direct threat to humans. Hunting groups and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have said the season allows state officials to regulate the population and ensure that kills are property recorded.

The idea for the plates came from a 2014 debate over a bill that created special military license plates to honor veterans.

Former state Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont proposed an amendment to establish “mountain lion protection plates” along with the veterans’ plates, but the idea was scrapped because some lawmakers said it was disrespectful to veterans.

Chambers used to rail against special plates, arguing that license plates shouldn’t be used as mobile billboards. But on Thursday, he said he had lost that argument years ago and no longer intended to fight it.

Nebraska now offers plates touting the Huskers, Creighton University and the state’s upcoming Sesquicentennial celebration. Other state-sanctioned plates serve as advertisements for Nebraska’s Union Pacific Railroad Museum, the Nebraska Cattlemen and the state’s firefighters.

If his bill passes, Chambers said he intends to buy a mountain lion plate for himself.

Senators voted 38-0 to advance the bill. Two additional votes are required before it goes to Gov. Pete Ricketts.

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The bill is LB474

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