An attempt to save prairie dogs across Nebraska has been shut down this week after Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed LB 449, which proposed repealing the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. LB 449 was introduced by State Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha and was opposed by agriculture groups, sportsmen, and local officials. The bill was passed by the Legislature 26-13-10.
“This legislation repeals the authority of counties to prevent the spread of prairie dogs when an individual landowner refuses to implement effective control measures on his property,” said Governor Ricketts. “My primary concern with LB 449 is that it fails to protect the individual property rights of those landowners who are detrimentally harmed by a neighbor’s inaction. This bill has been represented to be a landowner protection bill; however, repeal of these statutes would actually infringe on the property rights of responsible landowners.”
Herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America, prairie dogs are named for their habitat and warning call, which sounds similar to a dog’s bark. The black-tailed prairie dog is the most widespread, living throughout the Great Plains from Canada to northern Mexico.
The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act, passed in 2012, gives county governments the authority to manage prairie dog populations across Nebraska. The bill empowered counties to manage invasive prairie dog populations. Prairie dog populations create expansive tunnel systems, which can destroy farm and ranch land, hurt animals, and lower property values if left unmanaged.
In the late 1990s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service considered a petition to list them as a federal threatened species. South Dakota is one of eleven states that has worked cooperatively to develop management programs to help avoid the need to list the black-tailed prairie dog as a federal threatened species. In August 2004, the black-tailed prairie dog was removed from federal candidate list, due to results of surveys that better described the extent of the species’ range and commitments by state, tribal, federal, and private entities to continue to work cooperatively on this issue.