Vol. 9, No. 50
December 13 - 19, 2001 
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John Kabler Still Guides Us;
Perhaps Gov. Glendening, Too

For conservationist legend John Kabler, the tributes from heavyweights gushed forth at the Maryland League of Conservation Memorial Award dinner in Annapolis last week.

Kabler, who died at 53 from cancer five years ago, headed Clean Water Action in Maryland and was one of the most influential environmentalists of his era not just in Maryland and Virginia but also in Florida, where he worked over the years to rescue the Everglades.

He pioneered in the door-knocking activism practiced widely now in conservation circles. If you didn’t know Kabler, who had been honored as an Admiral of the Chesapeake, was an environmental hero, it’s because he was modest to a fault about his success.

As his friend Joe Browder wrote in these pages after his death, “John believed that so long as the right things happen, it doesn’t matter who appears to be responsible.”

At the dinner establishing a fund in his name, Kabler’s influence on the environmental leaders of today was unmistakable.

Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner said that Kabler “believed that when our local community gets involved in making decisions on air and water, the community is better off.”

Chuck Fox, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources secretary, recalled with a grin how Kabler taught him many of life’s lessons — while sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

Will Baker, who heads the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, recalled Kabler as “a supremely gifted political strategist. But most important for John’s success was the twinkle in his eye.”

Then came Gov. Parris Glendening.

Unbeknownst to the crowd, shortly before climbing to the dais, Glendening had removed himself from the running to be state universities chancellor. We don’t know why, but perhaps the Board of Regents politics is too Byzantine even for a governor to master.

As Glendening spoke, he displayed an environmental consciousness that might not be so acceptable in Maryland were it not for the man honored that might.

The governor sounded like a would-be leader of a national environmental organization. Of course, he will be need a job when he leaves office in 13 months as required after two terms.

Speaking of the war on terrorism, Glendening observed that only the United States has the capacity to mobilize the entire world.

“But why doesn’t the U.S. use some portion of that extraordinary influence to mobilize the world for something other than military combat?” he asked, referring to global environmental challenges ahead.

We have a suggestion for the governor’s next job: Setting up an entity called the Smart Growth Foundation and going national with his efforts to preserve land while we still can.

We think that John Kabler, with that twinkle in his eye, would endorse the idea.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly