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Editorials

Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Yakima Herald-Republic and Ashland (Ore.) Daily Tidings. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

Only the poachers try to justify poaching. The illegal taking of fish and game finds universal condemnation from anyone concerned about the stewardship of our outdoor resources — be they hunters, fishing enthusiasts, enforcement officials, agency managers, conservationists and legislators who write our state’s laws.

Poaching can be a serious crime, starting with a misdemeanor for taking wild birds and other animals not considered big game, rising in scale to a Class C felony for hunting, taking or possessing at least three big game animals. Even a misdemeanor comes at a cost, a possible $1,000 fine and 90 days in county jail; a felony could incur up to a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

A Yakima Herald-Republic story earlier this month detailed the problem. The act of illegally fishing or hunting amounts to theft from those who follow the rules and pay the fees. “It just takes away from the people who do it right every time,” according to longtime hunter Trevor Dallman. Poaching also diminishes a finite resource and — for hunters of game that requires special tags — reduces the number that are allotted to hunters who follow the rules.

Enforcement officials admit that the extent of the practice really isn’t known — animals die in the wild for a number of reasons, natural and human-inflicted. Detection is hobbled by a shortage of enforcement officers in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. So just as police departments in cities and towns depend on residents to be the eyes and ears of a neighborhood, state officials need outdoors enthusiasts to perform the same function while in the forests and fields or on the rivers and streams.

A nonprofit called Eyes in the Woods has helped people report and recognize illegal activity for the past two decades. A spokesman for the group says its free classes teach about 1,500 people a year; the next local instruction is scheduled for April 30 at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.

Officials say those who see something should note the type and color of a vehicle along with its license plate number, a description of the person involved, the type of violation, where it occurred and when it took place. An anonymous report can go to Fish and Wildlife by phone at 877-933-9847; by text at 847411 and typing WDFWTIP; by email at reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov; and online at wdfw.wa.gov.

Poachers want to run around the system, a system set up to assure fish and game are available for the rest of us. Those who pay for licenses, tags and passes are by definition invested in that system, and their diligence can help the system work better for all those folks who do it right.

Self-driving to distraction

The accident in Arizona in which a driverless car struck and killed a woman appears to be the first pedestrian death involving self-driving technology. It won’t be the last, but that’s not a reason to abandon automous vehicles.

Still, there are many issues to be worked out.

Early indications suggest the driverless car was not at fault, and neither was the human safety driver. Police said the victim was walking her bicycle across the street, in the dark, and reportedly stepped into the path of the car traveling 40 mph in a 45-mph zone. Apparently neither the vehicle nor its occupant had time to react.

Driverless cars cannot avoid every possible action by human beings. People step in front of moving vehicles. Human drivers lose control, or swerve suddenly for no apparent reason.

Self-driving cars can, however, eliminate much of the human error that causes an estimated 94 percent of crashes. They don’t drink, text or speed. And so far, their safey record is stellar — although one expert notes much of the testing has been done on unidirectional, multi-lane highways, where the driver’s job is keeping the car in the lane and not following too closely. Self-driving cars are good at that — but so are human drivers.

Security is another consideration. How prone will autonomous cars be to hacking by pranksters or terrorists?

Eventually, driverless cars will be part of daily life.

In the meantime, government officials should make sure driverless cars are perfected and tested thoroughly before allowing them to operate at will.

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