The state appears on its way to offering license plates to support conservation of mountain lions.
Senators who have had problems with the idea of not allowing the Game and Parks Commission to set hunting seasons for mountain lions in Nebraska had no such problems Thursday with a bill (LB474) to create mountain lion conservation license plates.
The plates would come with a $5 fee that would go to the Game and Parks Commission for educating youth about wildlife conservation practices. More would go to the educational fund for personalized conservation plates.
“I’ve been told by any number of people that they would purchase these plates,” Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said. “There is a tremendous amount of support for conserving the small population of mountain lions which we have in this state.”
Chambers has also reintroduced a bill this session to prohibit Game and Parks from establishing a hunting season for mountain lions. The bill he introduced last session was killed in the Natural Resources Committee.
The results of a research project on cougars in the state will determine whether biologists recommend a future hunting season for the big cat, Sam Wilson, the commission's carnivore program manager, has said.
Nebraska's first and only mountain lion-hunting season occurred in 2014, when hunters killed five cougars.
But this bill was not related to that.
Before the vote was taken to advance the license plate bill, Chambers had to take some grief from senators about stances he’s taken both on funding for Game and Parks and on specialty license plates.
He recently said that if the Natural Resources Committee kills his current mountain lion hunting bill, he would negatively target bills introduced to help the Game and Parks Commission.
“I could have sworn I heard you say that you want money to go to Game and Parks. Is that correct?” asked Sen. David Schnoor of Scribner. “I just wanted to make sure that is on the record, and everybody heard that.”
Omaha Sen. Bob Krist said when he came to the Legislature he was told that if he wanted to pass a bill on custom license plates he had to do it when Chambers was not around.
“Cause Ernie didn’t like those. What changed?” Krist asked.
Chambers said that if there had not been a proliferation of slogans and groups on license plates, he would not have altered his position.
But he knows now he has lost the battle of keeping the license plates free of anything other than the identifying numbers or insignia. So he has said he wouldn’t fight any proposal that was within reason, unless he had a personal objection to it.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte rose to say the reason the state has mountain lions, formerly extinct in the state, is because of conservation, the Game and Parks Commission and the hunters and fishers who pay their fees.
And he understood Chambers’ previous position. Where does the state draw the line on specialty plates? To what cause does it finally say no?
But he joined the majority in supporting Chambers’ license plate bill. It advanced from first-round debate on a 38-0 vote.