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Sen. Ernie Chambers fired a warning shot Friday to let the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission know he will oppose every proposal it brings to the Legislature as long as it allows mountain lions to be hunted.

The commission had come to the Legislature's Executive Board with two requests to accept donations of land and a playground structure. Any land donation worth more than $10,000 and certain other donations offered between sessions have to be approved by the board and others, including the governor.

The playground structure worth $48,421, for Branched Oak Lake, was offered by the Game and Parks Foundation. The land gift was 193 acres in Fillmore County, offered by Ducks Unlimited.

Chambers told Roger Kuhn, parks division administrator, he had expressed his "displeasure, repugnance and disgust" to Game and Parks Director James Douglas over the establishment of a mountain lion hunting season. He had told him to take the message to the commission that he would strenuously oppose any proposal as long as the hunting season continues. 

Chambers said he was also "thoroughly outraged" by the auction conducted for a mountain lion hunting permit by the Nebraska Big Game Society.

"I was told that fears led to the creation of a hunting season for these, what I consider to be regal animals," he said. "And these fears were engendered by the possibility or likelihood of these animals eating the grandchildren of Nebraskans."

That notion is baseless, he said, because there is an inconsequential number of mountain lions in the state and those few "have better taste than that."

The Legislature in 2012 passed a bill (LB928) that allowed for mountain lion hunting. Sen. Leroy Louden of Ellsworth had introduced the bill in response to increased sightings of the animals in the state. Before the law was passed, mountain lions could be killed if they were threatening humans or livestock.

At that time, the mountain lion population was estimated at fewer than 60 statewide.

The commission subsequently approved a hunting season for next year, on a trial basis, for a limited season in the Pine Ridge and a year-round season in the rest of the state with unlimited permits issued.

Chambers said he would vote against the donation offers presented Friday. But the Executive Board delayed any action on the items until more board members were present. Three were absent from the meeting.

Chambers had told the board if it approved the donations, he would offer a motion when the Legislature was in session to undo that approval.

The Defender of the Downtrodden, as Chambers is known, will designate mountain lions as members of the downtrodden, he said.

"By fang and claw, somebody's going to pay in terms of the Legislature's time," he said. "And I don't mind being alone. In fact, that energizes me."

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Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com. You can follow JoAnne's tweets at twitter.com/ljslegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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