It's time for Oregon conservationists to give up on their 1994 landmark cougar conservation initiative: Measure 18. It was a valiant attempt to rid the state of an ignoble blood sport and protect an important wildlife species, but small-minded legislators and petty bureaucrats have whittled away at what little protection Measure 18 did provide cougars. Because of them, Measure 18 has now become a hollow mockery of environmental legislation.
For several years now more cougars are killed each year in Oregon by hound hunters under preemptive removal programs for so called "public safety" and game species protection purposes than are killed by legitimate hunters. If I were one of those that had to pay for a cougar hunting license I would be upset that my already slim chance of coming across a cougar had been cut in half by taxpayer funded programs designed to spit in the eye of Oregon voters.
Even now, despite the fact that these "special" programs are cheating the paying public and violating the spirit of Measure 18 by exploiting public safety loopholes, some Oregon legislators want to include even more exemptions.
On Tuesday, April 2, 2013: House Bill 2624 and House Bill 3395 will receive their first public hearings. If passed, HB 2624 could exempt counties from Measure 18's ban on the use of dogs and bait to hunt black bears or cougars. And HB 3395 would require the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop rules for a pilot program that, in direct violation of Measure 18, would allow hunters to use dogs to hunt or pursue cougars.
If either bill passes Measure 18 is truly dead.
So I repeat my original comment. It's time. It's time to stop trying to defend Measure 18 against piecemeal legislation and start a new effort to protect Oregon's cougars forever. What Oregon cougars need is a complete ban on the trophy hunting of cougars. And it needs safeguards so that the will of the majority can't be overturn by rural legislators pandering to their voter base.
Oregon's voters need to prove that the protection of cougars means as much to them now as it did when they passed Measure 18 nineteen years ago.
So for now: every Oregonian needs to contact their legislators and tell them that not only are they opposed to HB 2624 and HB 3395, but that they also want to see new legislation introduced to completely ban cougar hunting in Oregon.
Oregonians. It's time to take back your state from cougar hunting special interest groups.
It's time to finally protect cougars in Oregon.