Nebraska legislators are taking aim at prairie dogs, at the expense of the personal property rights of landowners. Some of the same state senators who condoned a toxic tarsands pipeline in the Ogallala aquifer are now pushing for county-mandated poisoning of wildlife at landowners’ expense, without landowners’ permission, and against landowners’ will. Lawmakers who would not stand with farmers and ranchers when TransCanada tried to force their way across Nebraska with eminent domain threats are now perfectly willing to allow forced poisoning of wildlife and trampling of personal property rights.

LB473, proposed by Sens. Louden, Hansen, Harms, Shilz and Wallman, would give county governments the authority to order the poisoning of black-tailed prairie dogs on private land.  Not only would it require state and local wildlife agencies to trespass without permission on private land, but it would also require the landowner to foot the bill, even if they were opposed to the use of poison on their land.

Poisoning prairie dogs in this manner isn’t just a violation of personal property rights, it’s also dangerous to wildlife. In addition to being deadly to prairie dogs, it can inadvertently kill many other species, including the federally-protected burrowing owl and golden eagle. Because of this destruction of wildlife, many landowners could lose the recreational value of their property and the economic benefits of wildlife viewing and hunting.

Many Nebraskans are concerned and outraged over this ill-conceived bill. Nebraska native and world-renown National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore wrote a letter to the Lincoln Journal-Star in which he voiced his frustration over this destructive legislation, which he views as irrational:

“Forget about the prairie dogs for a minute and think about this with me. What if a deer beds on one landowner’s property but eats crops on a neighbor’s land? Should the landowner where the deer sleeps be held responsible? Of course not. Nobody owns wildlife, so why would anyone be liable for a species that moves from one parcel of land to the next?”

Sartore later discusses how this bill would set a dangerous precedent:

“If individual landowners want to poison prairie dogs on their own dime, that’s their business. But this bill is similar to a 1901 Kansas law that is still being enforced against the wishes of private landowners. This new bill would similarly set Nebraska back to an outdated mindset when healthy wildlife and healthy lands were not valued.”

The worst part is, this bill only requires a simple majority to pass. Only 25 state senators need to vote in favor of LB473 in order for this bad bill to become a bad law. Action is needed now to sway the balance back to the side of common sense and respect for wildlife and personal property rights. Please call your state senator today and urge them them to vote against LB473.

To find your state senator and their contact information, click on this link:

To contact the members of the Agriculture Committee:
Carlson: 402-471-2732
Wallman: 402-471-2620
Bloomfield:  402-471-2716
Brasch:  402-471-2728
B. Harr:  402-471-2722
Karpisek:  402-472-2711
Larson: 402-471-2801
Lathrop:  402-471-2623