By J.L. Schmidt - Statehouse Correspondent - The Nebraska Press Association
Have you ever used the words Senator Ernie Chambers and hunting and fishing in the same sentence? Sure, he’s a veteran lawmaker, the self-proclaimed defender of the downtrodden (that’s how he describes himself in the Nebraska Legislature’s directory), and contrary to ordinary on a lot of things.
But seasoned legislative reporters and observers know that the urban legend from Omaha is also an animal rights advocate – dating back at least a decade and probably more. He’s been in the nation’s only one-house Legislature for 39 years. He recently told the Legislature’s Executive Board and an official from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that he would oppose every Game and Parks request of the Legislature next session as long as the agency allows mountain lions – which he calls “regal animals” – to be hunted.
Game and Parks official Roger Kuhn was seeking approval for accepting donations of land and a playground structure. The Commission is a non-code agency, meaning it is not under the direct control of the Governor (as are most state agencies). It is run by a Commission whose members are approved by the legislative and executive branches. The Commission has approved a trial mountain lion hunting season for next year, based in part on an increased number of sightings of the big cats in populated areas. Chambers says the season was spawned by misplaced fears that mountain lions are going to eat “the grandchildren of Nebraskans.” Officials have said there are fewer than 60 mountain lions living in the wild in Nebraska.
In November 2012, Nebraska voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to add the rights to hunt and fish. That makes 17 states that guarantee such a right. The measure to get it on Nebraska’s ballot passed at a time when Chambers was not serving because he had been term-limited. It’s hard to say if Chambers’ presence would have blocked the passage, but in 2008 he did introduce a bill to ban hunting, fishing and trapping. It didn’t pass and it wasn’t the first time he had offered what some said was an outlandish measure.
In 2007 he filed a lawsuit against God in Douglas County District Court seeking a “permanent injunction ordering Defendant to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.” That same year he brought a complaint against a Nebraska State Fair show, “Kachunga and the Alligator,” for putting the alligators “under stress for no reason other than cheap entertainment.”
Back in 2004, Chambers offered a series of amendments in an effort to block a proposed constitutional amendment to protect Nebraskans’ right to hunt, fish and trap. Among his proposed amendments was one that would have preserved the right to hunt Osama bin Laden, another that would have protected the right to trap “the Man in the Moon” and hunt for “Martians,” and a third that would have protected the right to hunt for “a way to protect the Constitution from frivolous amendments.”
The Game and Parks Commission says hunting and fishing make a significant contribution to Nebraska’s economy. Studies have indicated that the state’s anglers spend nearly $203 million annually. Chambers has said the constitutional amendments are unnecessary because in a mostly rural state blessed with miles of wide-open spaces, hunting and fishing are very popular. Perhaps this latest foray will show us if the commission regulating those activities enjoys the same popular support.
Ernie Chambers needs to move my daughter' house on the north edge of Chadron and have the mother lion and her 2 cubs who stalks around their neighborhood, feeding out of the dumpsters, visit him every evening. And then tell us all again that there isn't a problem with these "regal" animals.
She was sitting out on her front porch late in the evening 2 weeks ago and one of them was stalking her. She could see the reflection of the cat's eyes across the road in the ditch. As long as she stayed still, it would move along the ditch, watching her but if she moved her head to look in it's direction, it would stop. She got up and went in the house. She has a 2 and a half year old daughter who has been scared by the mother cat looking in her bedroom window. She reported it the first time they were aware the mother lion there was there and refuses to report it again because she said everyone just thinks she is just looking for drama. Tehy keep my granddaughter's window blacked out now.
My husband and I have seen the 3 sets of tracks in the snow in her yard leading over to a dumpster across in the next alley.
Ernie Chambers needs to shut his mouth and let Game and Parks get a grip on these animals. They aren't afraid humans anymore. And Ii SERIOUSLY question the quote that the estimate number of these cats in the panhandle is 22. Let's see...3 of them in the tree grove to the north of my daughter's house. And more have been seen in the State Park south of Chadron and east of Rushville. The panhandle of Nebraska covers Qutie and area. Someone needs to do better math.