ASHLAND — A wildlife advocacy group is coming to town tonight for a public forum to gain support for protecting Oregon's native predators, including cougars and bears.

ASHLAND — A wildlife advocacy group is coming to town tonight for a public forum to gain support for protecting Oregon's native predators, including cougars and bears.

State Rep. Peter Buckley and state Sen. Alan Bates, both Ashland Democrats, were scheduled to join representatives from the group Big Wildlife and others to take aim at Oregon's current predator-control policies as well as the state's 2-year-old plan for managing cougars.

Tonight's forum begins at 7 p.m. in the Meese Room of Southern Oregon University's Hannon Library, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Buckley said he would like the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at least to suspend the agency's ongoing study to determine if killing cougars in three so-called "target areas" — including Jackson County — curbs human-safety and damage complaints.

Through March, 12 cougars have been killed in the Jackson County portion of the study.

Buckley called the plan "a little bit more experimental than what I'd like to see," and he plans to ask the 2009 Oregon Legislature for a suspension of the target-area studies and other aspects of the plan until it gets more scientific review.

"I don't know how much traction that will get," Buckley said.

The forum, Buckley said, is a way to shed light on these issues before the Legislature convenes.

"This is a public-awareness campaign to bring up the issues and get feedback," Buckley said. "More information is always a good thing."

Ron Anglin, the ODFW's Wildlife Division administrator, said the plan was crafted to call for a review after three years, and that it was designed to be altered based on study findings.

"The plan is designed to be adaptive and make changes if you find things aren't working," Anglin said. "We're still marching down that path."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.