- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2002

CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) The General Assembly will consider a proposal to take game-management decisions away from the Department of Natural Resources and create a state fish and wildlife commission to regulate hunting and fishing.

The measure, House Bill 101, is part of the "house leadership package" 15 bills assigned high priority by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany Democrat, and other leading delegates.

Steve Palmer, leader of a sportsmen's group that requested the bill, said Department of Natural Resources (DNR) policies increasingly reflect political agendas rather than scientific research.

"Maryland's natural resources are too precious to be managed politically," Mr. Palmer said.

DNR spokesman Chuck Porcari said the agency manages wildlife based on science and experience.

"We'll certainly examine the speaker's legislative proposal, but it is the mission of the Department of Natural Resources to serve the interests of all Marylanders when it comes to preserving and protecting Maryland's assets," Mr. Porcari said.

Mr. Palmer, a Keedysville gunsmith, chairs the Maryland Coalition for Responsible Wildlife Management, an organization formed last year in response to what its founders perceived as the Glendening administration's anti-hunting bias.

He said the proposed commission would be modeled after the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which regulates hunting. Pennsylvania also has a Fish and Boat Commission that regulates sport fishing. Both agencies are separate from the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees parks, forest land, and ecological and geological resources.

The Maryland game commission would be composed of seven volunteer members whose appointment would depend, in part, on their support of hunting in general, Mr. Palmer said.

"This was done to keep anti-hunters off the commission."

Maryland has a Wildlife Advisory Commission, a panel that recommends hunting policies to the DNR. Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, enraged hunters when he appointed animal rights activist E. Joseph Lamp to the traditionally pro-hunting advisory board in 1997.

The DNR is not bound by the advisory commission's recommendations. In 2000, for example, the agency rejected its recommendation for a black bear season, despite DNR biologists' conclusion that Maryland's bear population could support a limited hunt.

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