Volume XI, Issue 31 ~ July 31 - August 6, 2003

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DNR’s Unwise Choice of Words

“Wise use?” We hope not.

People wondering why the Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources rewrote its mission statement are being accused of conjuring conspiracies.

Given what we’ve seen from the Ehrlich administration on environmental issues thus far, we can’t be sure.

Here are the facts:

As reported in the Washington Post, until recently DNR defined its mission in this way:

For today and tomorrow, DNR inspires people to enjoy and live in harmony with their environment and to protect what makes Maryland unique, our treasured Chesapeake Bay, our diverse landscapes and our living and natural resources.

Pretty eloquent, eh?

Now the new statement:

DNR preserves, protects, enhances and restores Maryland’s natural resources for the wise use and enjoyment of all citizens.

So what’s the problem?

First, the new mission statement is weaker, not to mention less reverent than what was on the books before.

But what has discerning conservationists worried is the phrase “wise use.” As innocuous as this phrase sounds, it has come to define a body of anti-environment sentiments that have no place in Maryland government.

The wise use movement sprang up in the 1980s in the West, primarily, as a front for timber and mining interests fighting environmental controls, regulations and oversight. It broadened to include property-rights advocates, “inholders” of land in national forests and mega-farming interests arguing that scarce water should be used for irrigation, not endangered species.

Listen to the views of wise use guru Ron Arnold, who heads the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise: “Environmentalism is the new paganism. Trees are worshipped and humans sacrificed at its altar … It is evil and we intend to destroy it.”

It’s fine for businesses and land-owners to fight for their interests. But those in the wise use movement, besides being extremist, have always had something sneaky about them: While portraying themselves as grass-roots organizations marshaling local anger at Big Government, typically their money comes from Big Corporations.

We probably wouldn’t be engaged in the equivalent of reading tea leaves if Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s administration hadn’t already demonstrated a hostile approach to environmental matters with its appointments and pronouncements.

What’s in a word? In this case, nothing — we hope. But perhaps there’s plenty.



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Last updated July 31, 2003 @ 2:45am