Volume 12, Issue 2 ~ January 8-14, 2004

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Chesapeake Outdoors ~ by C. D. Dollar

New Year Brings New Chances

Four-thirty comes obscenely early and arrives with all the subtlety of a two-by-four to the back of the head. The radio’s obnoxious talking head makes sure of that, blaring nonsense from his megaphonic mouth as if required by statute to pitch his voice across three zip codes.

The moving parts are slow to warm. Aching bones sputter, joints snap and crack like stale uncooked pasta until finally, mercifully, a spark explodes within the inner cylinder and the flywheel finally catches. The chassis still creaks along, however, until the morning’s savior — hot coffee — jolts the internal workings.

Soon the brain begins to freeform, releasing the first random thoughts of the day. Among the few useful cerebral exorcisms is what’s in store for Maryland’s natural resources in 2004.

The state’s General Assembly opens January 14, when Gov. Robert Ehrlich will release his 2004 agenda to lawmakers for debate and action. Also at the starting line are lobbyists of all shades, and farther back in the pack, outdoorsmen and women and common folk who care about clean water, healthy fish and open space.

There is no shortage of hot environmental topics, from closing loopholes in critical-area laws to streamlining how farmers report fertilizer use. Perhaps topping the hit parade is the governor’s pending proposal to charge a user fee to help pay for sewage-plant upgrades.

The governor’s people say a monthly fee of $2.50 per household would pay for modernizing wastewater facilities to help reduce the amount of nutrients polluting Bay waters. Clearly, it’s not the panacea, but I’d pony up if it helps clean up one of the country’s best natural treasures.

In 2003, the Chesapeake suffered through one of its worst dead zones on record, spurred by nutrient pollution that fueled algae blooms, which robbed water of oxygen, killing crabs, fish and underwater grasses. It’d be a nice change to see our leaders hold polluters accountable and actually enforce the Clean Water Act.

Other items on my list of things I’d like to see action on this year involve (surprise, surprise) wild things. I hope Maryland officials follow through on their pledge to continue progress made by the bi-state blue crab group, which was dissolved in July 2003 despite effective, ground-breaking work to reverse the decline of one of the state’s last remaining viable fisheries.

It’d be good to see state fisheries folks take leadership in ramping up efforts to conserve menhaden, a crucial food source for rockfish and an efficient plankton filter. I’d also hope that the state considers scaling up native oyster restoration and proceeding cautiously with Asian oysters.

Finally, I’d ask that state budget slicers and dicers leave alone the Department of Natural Resources budget, especially the Wildlife and Heritage division that has already suffered deep cuts. Maryland hunters paid more in license fees this past year to ensure quality service from state staff, and additional cuts to those programs would be unfair.


  • Jonesin’ to fish but can’t? Then check out the Fly Fishing Show this weekend at College Park: 800/420-7582 • www.flyfishingshow.com.

  • The state’s collective environmental community holds its 10th Legislative Summit from 1:30–4pm Monday, January 19, in the Senate Building in Annapolis. Elected officials, citizens, and conservation and environmental leaders outline the key environmental issues. Tune in and get involved.

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Last updated January 8, 2004 @ 1:27am.