Bear-aware group forms

A new group aimed at reducing the conflicts between black bears and humans held their first meeting Wednesday in the Greensprings to promote a community-based approach to addressing bear problems.

Southern Oregon Bear-Aware was formed recently to reduce the number of bear complaints and bear deaths that occur after bears habituate themselves to humans and begin associating people with easy meals of bird seed, garbage and dog food.

Landowners who "bear smart" their property by not leaving out garbage and add hot-wire fencing to reduce damage on their land can see their efforts scuttled if nearby landowners don't change their patterns, as well, organizers say.

"We're trying to make this a collaborative thing, to deal with this issue holistically," says Marko Bey, one of the group's organizers. "Instead of leaving it up to individuals, we need to pull together more as a community.

"It's citizens taking more responsibility," he says.

The meeting was at Green Springs Inn off Highway 66 east of Ashland. Future meetings are planned.

The effort comes as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has seen a four-fold increase in bears killed over damage complaints in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Similar efforts in such places as Lake Tahoe, Nev., have been successful at reducing conflicts and the number of bears killed because of those conflicts, Bey says.

The Oregon State Marine Board has scheduled a public meeting Tuesday, Aug. 3, in Florence to gather input on whether to make a temporary speed limit permanent on a piece of nearby Siltcoos Lake.

The proposed rule would keep the speed limit at 10 miles per hour in the lake's Miller Arm. The 10-mph limit was initiated as a temporary rule in April at the request of the Lane County Sheriff's Department to ensure the safety of swimmers and paddlers of small boats in that section of the lake. The temporary speed limit, enacted before Memorial Day weekend, was set to sunset this fall.

Under Marine Board rules, full agency review and a request for public comments are needed before the Marine Board can consider making the rule permanent.

Tuesday's meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the Bromley Room of the Siuslaw Public Library in Florence, 1460 Ninth St. Spoken and written comments will be accepted there.

Those who want to submit comments through August can e-mail them to, fax them to 503-378-4597, or mail them to OSMB, P.O. Box 14145, Salem, OR, 97309.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail

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