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Drone operators advised to know and abide by wildlife, park rules

LINCOLN, Neb. – Operators of recreational unmanned aircraft (UAVs), commonly known as drones, should be aware of the following wildlife laws and rules governing their use at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s properties:

State Parks, State Historical Parks and State Recreation Areas: To ensure public safety and privacy, UAV use is not permitted in state parks, state historical parks and state recreation areas. A special permit may be issued to operate a UAV in unique occasions.

State Wildlife Management Areas (WMA): UAV use on WMAs is not allowed unless a free Special Occasion Permit is requested and obtained. Contact the nearest Commission district office for an application.

Wildlife: State law and the federal Airborne Hunting Act prohibit the use of aircraft, including UAVs, to harass birds, fish, or any other animal. Drones should never be used to flush, chase or harass any wildlife, including, but not limited to, large flocks of migrating birds such as snow geese or sandhill cranes, or nesting birds, such as the peregrine falcons at the State Capitol building.

Endangered and Threatened Species: State and federal endangered species laws prohibit the harassment of listed species. Drone use is more likely to impact Nebraska’s endangered and threatened birds compared to other listed plants and animals. Nebraska listed bird species include the whooping crane, least tern, piping plover, mountain plover and red knot. Drone operators should avoid flying UAVs in areas where these species are known to occur. More information can be found at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/lrd/files/2015/12/lrd_mow_14.pdf.

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act: This federal law protects the two eagle species that occur in the United States by prohibiting their disturbance. UAVs should not be flown to observe eagles or near their nests. Eagles may attack drones, especially if flown near active nests or near large congregations of over-wintering or migrating eagles.

Additionally, those who operate UAVs should be aware of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) laws and city ordinances governing their use. Recreational UAV use has been allowed by the FAA since August 2016.

“We recognize UAVs are a new frontier and their increasing availability creates both opportunities and challenges,” said Craig Stover, the Commission’s law enforcement division administrator. “The laws and rules the Commission has in place that limit UAV use in certain settings are intended to protect people, maintain the splendor and family-friendly atmosphere of our recreational lands and avoid unnecessary harm and harassment to sensitive wildlife.”

UAV operators are encouraged to contact the Commission at 402-471-0641 if they have further questions.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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