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A waste of time

Local editorial

Oregonians are not threatened by the ban on hunting with hounds

As the 2003 Legislature approaches three months in session with no appreciable progress on the enormous challenges facing the state, lawmakers continue to waste their time and taxpayers' money on the usual raft of perennial losers.

High on that list is House Bill 2436, which is scheduled for a committee work session today. The measure would repeal the voter-approved ban on using dogs to hunt cougars and bears and the practice of baiting bears with food.

Voters approved Ballot Measure 18 in 1994, despite vigorous opposition from hunting groups. In 1996, the Legislature asked voters to repeal the ban, but the electorate refused to do so by a wide margin.

Supporters of hound hunting have attacked the law ever since, without success.

They say the state's cougar population has soared since the ban took effect, and cougars pose a danger to children, pets and livestock. The fact is, no human being has been killed by a cougar in the history of the state.

— What's more, sport cougar hunting remains perfectly legal in Oregon ' just not with dogs. Hunters killed 229 cougars last year without dogs ' the largest harvest since cougars became a game animal 40 years ago.

To offset the loss of hound hunting, the state has dropped the price of a cougar tag from &

36;50 to &

36;11, increased the cougar quota and extended the cougar season. More than 32,000 tags were issued in 2002, up from about 500 a year previously.

If a cougar becomes a problem, wildlife agents are allowed to hunt it down with dogs. Under a law passed last session, citizens may kill cougars that pose a threat to human safety.

Cougar hunting is apparently the main focus of HB 2436, although the bill also would reinstate bear-baiting as a permitted practice. No one seems to be actively supporting that thoroughly discredited hunting technique.

There is no evidence this bill is needed. That alone should be ample justification for rejecting it.

But even more troubling to us is lawmakers' insistence on wasting time on unnecessary legislation when the state faces its worst fiscal crisis in years.