Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed a bill expanding the use of dogs in cougar hunts.
Under the measure, a 2004 pilot program allowing cougar hunts with dogs is extended another three years and expanded statewide. Previously it applied only in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
“I’m glad my fellow legislators and the governor were convinced that this bill is a critical public safety issue in the state,” said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Waconda, a rancher and the bill’s sponsor.
Animal-rights activists contend using dogs is cruel and unfair. Big Wildlife, an Oregon-based group that focuses on predatory animals, blasted Gregoire for signing “a death warrant for cougars.”
Washington voters banned hound hunting through a 1996 initiative.
– Staff and wire reports
Weather service predicts snow tonight
Just when you thought it was safe to put away your winter coat.
The National Weather Service is predicting snow overnight tonight and says areas north and west of Spokane can expect the brunt of the storm.
Matt Fugazzi, a weather service meteorologist, said there may be enough to cover the just-greening grass in Spokane and the Valley.
“Winter is not quite over yet,” Fugazzi said.
Aging snow has been a long-lasting reminder of the storms that hit earlier in the season. According to the weather service, it was on the ground at Spokane International Airport for 91 days, from Dec. 10 until March 8. And in many residential neighborhoods, it still hasn’t gone away.
– Jody Lawrence-Turner
Bill increases fines for spawning-bed damage
A North Idaho developer faced a $2,500 fine last year when he caused damage estimated at $1.4 million to kokanee spawning beds in Lake Pend Oreille. Under a bill that won unanimous approval Thursday from the Idaho Senate, any future violations could bring fines of $10,000 or $1,000 a day – whichever is bigger.
A 30-day cease-and-desist warning is required under the bill, SB 1449, and the measure wouldn’t change requirements to restore damage.
“This is a stiff penalty, it is fair, and it gives warning,” Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, told the Senate.
Bayview developer Bob Holland last April crushed and smothered thousands of kokanee eggs that were just beginning to hatch at Bayview. Officials said Holland did not have a permit for pounding steel pilings through the spawning beds. Propeller wash from a construction barge turned the area into a stew of mud and fish eggs.
The legislation, which passed on a 34-0 vote in the Senate, now moves to the House.
– Betsy Z. Russell