- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Keep an eye on the Maryland legislature and the people you sent there with your votes. Some delegates are coming up with innovative ways to run the Department of Natural Resources or accept suggestions from the DNR on what's needed, and some others are absolutely up to no good at least as far as the state's sportsmen are concerned.
For example, there is the DNR-sponsored HB-94, a good bill that calls for the revocation of commercial fishing licenses when fraud and repeated violations are committed. The bill is in the House Environmental Matters (ENV) Committee. The Coastal Conservation Association/Maryland has sent e-mails to constituents of committee members urging them to contact their legislator and request support for the bill. The CCA/Maryland also has lobbied extensively to get the bill reported.
The passage of license revocation for law-breaking commercial netters surely would send a powerful message that the state will not tolerate illegal behavior. Until now, general violations were answered with a slap on the wrist and a fine.
However, watch out for House Bill 331, which would establish a "Marine and Estuarine Fisheries Commission (MEFC) as an independent state agency; transferring specified powers, functions, and duties from the DNR."
This insidious proposal is an attempt to disarm the DNR and let the commercial fishing industry govern itself by creating a nine-member commission on which five members would have to come from the commercial fishing industry. There will be a hearing tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis. The CCA/MD opposes it vigorously, as should all recreational anglers and crabbers. The bill would give enormous power to commercial interests at the expense of sport fishermen and conservationists. Every angler and sport crabber who uses Maryland waters is strongly urged to attend the hearing to show that protecting our natural resources should come above all else.
Then there is a bill (SB-195) that would identify and mark the lifeblood of every body of water submersed aquatic vegetation, referred to everywhere as SAVs. The Senate version has passed, and now it's in the House as HB-536. It will be heard today. A lot of damage has been done to the life-giving, fish- and crab-protecting SAVs by hydraulic clam dredges. Maryland's commercial fishermen are always talking about how tough Maryland is on them, while Virginia's netters and dredgers have it easy. Well, it is interesting to note that Virginia prohibits hydraulic clam dredges altogether.
Are hunting changes coming?
The following is not a certainty but look for possible changes in the hunting of Maryland's exotic sika deer. Suggestions have been made to the DNR that a more conservative approach is needed in the management of this species. Bag limit reductions may be on the way, as well as perhaps shorter seasons.
Conversely, look for more liberal whitetailed deer hunting regulations. A rule change might be underfoot that includes removing the need for bonus stamps statewide as long as the bonus deer are does, not antlered males. Bucks still would require bonus stamps.
DNR biologists also have said that current data supports the need to increase antlerless deer harvests in most of the state, going as far as allowing unlimited numbers of antlerless deer to be removed until desired levels are reached. In some regions of the state (Southern Maryland, for one), you might see the firearms deer hunting season begin a week before Thanksgiving, or a third week could be added at the end of the firearms hunt. Currently, it starts the Saturday after Thanksgiving and finishes two Saturdays later. There's also a possibility of a third deer hunting week being implemented during the first half of every January. I like that idea.
Look also for extended turkey hunting in spring, maybe even increasing bag limits.
And if you have a place to hunt snow geese, get ready to use electronic calls, unplugged shotguns, later closing of shooting times and longer seasons. These prolific geese are increasing in numbers so dramatically they are literally eating themselves out of existence. Their Canadian tundra breeding grounds have been so overgrazed they look like a moonscape.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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