Claiming that "this bill is driven by the landowners," State Representative Dallas Heard of Roseburg, has proposed legislation wending its way through the Oregon state legislature that would allow landowners to petition counties to establish special tax districts in which properties would be assessed up to $1 an acre to raise funds for predator control conducted by USDA's Wildlife Services.
Proponents of the bill (HB 3188) claim it's necessary to protect the livestock industry and compensate for reduced federal timber payments to counties.
According to Dan Dawson, a sheep producer in Douglas County, ranchers try to use fences and guard dogs to fend off cougars, coyotes and other predators but these strategies aren't effective in all situations.
"Sometimes we need to target the animals that are causing the problem," he said during a hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Another rancher, David Briggs from Myrtle Creek, told the committee "There are some areas of the ranch where we no longer run sheep" due to predation problems.
Scott Beckstead, state director for Oregon at the Humane Society of the United States, said his group is not categorically opposed to predator control but would like to see such measures incorporate other points of view.
"We believe there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on non-lethal approaches to predator management," he said.
The committee voted unanimously to refer the bill to the House floor with a "do pass" recommendation.