This story hit the newspaper today. Now I gotta write more letters and see what groups might be able to help us fight this:


Published Thursday
February 17, 2005

Bills would allow feedlots closer to trout streams

LINCOLN (AP) - The balance between encouraging livestock production and preserving the state's natural re- sources, in particular trout fishing, is being tested under a pair of legislative proposals that would ease restrictions designed to protect cold-water streams.

The bills, heard Wednesday by the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee, would allow animal-feeding operations to expand to within two miles of a trout stream if scientific data can be presented showing there would be no harm to the environment.

The committee took no immediate action on the bills.

The issue pitted farmers and ranchers against environmentalists seeking to protect the streams.

"I don't know if there's any middle ground here," said State Sen. Ed Schrock of Elm Creek, chairman of the committee.

Under current law, no animal-feeding operation required to have a state permit can be within two miles of a cold-water trout stream. That affects livestock operations with at least 1,000 head of cattle or 2,500 hogs.

Farmers from Scottsbluff, in an area where many of the state's trout streams are located, testified via teleconference in support of the bills, saying removing the two-mile barrier would help the livestock industry.

"We just don't have Microsoft wanting to come out here to build a plant," said Stan Walker, a farmer and hog producer in Scottsbluff. "We have to allow for economic prosperity."

There are natural barriers, such as hills or gullies, within two miles of many streams that would make expansion of livestock operations safe, said Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth, who introduced Legislative Bill 120, one of the bills heard by the committee. The other one, LB 390, was proposed by Sen. Adrian Smith of Gering.

Representatives of sportsmen's and fishing clubs cautioned that any infringement on the current law could lead to spoiling the streams, most of which are situated off the White and North Platte Rivers in the Panhandle or off the Niobrara River in northern Nebraska.

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