- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

ANNAPOLIS — Three state senators and 19 members of the Maryland House of Delegates are willing to shake up the Department of Natural Resources with legislation they have sponsored that would establish a Wildlife and Inland Fisheries Commission (WIFC) an independent state agency apart from the DNR and quite the opposite of what many of the state's recreational hunters and anglers perceive is an increasingly pro-animal rights agenda within the DNR.
It must immediately be mentioned that House Bill 664 and Senate companion bill SB 817, which would create this wildlife/inland fisheries commission, is not even remotely related to the controversial HB 331 that currently seeks to establish a tidal-water fisheries commission to be run by a majority of commercial netters and seafood industry members, leaving recreational saltwater anglers in a vacuum.
Meanwhile, the people behind the idea for the Wildlife and Inland Fisheries Commission, the Maryland Coalition for Responsible Wildlife Management, headquartered in Keedysville (Washington County), say the WIFC would solely be responsible for the protection, restoration, enhancement and management of Maryland's wildlife and inland fisheries resources. It also would promote the responsible use of those resources for the recreational enjoyment, economic benefits and welfare of the citizens of the state.
Read that to mean that the commission would be pro-hunting, pro-fishing, and not about such nonsense as "non-lethal" wildlife management the animal rights movement's buzzwords for stopping recreational hunters, believing that deer, for example, might be given birth control medication to hold down the numbers.
The WIFC would consist of seven members, one representing the state's far western counties, another the central area of the state, a third the northern counties, a fourth member would look after Southern Maryland, another to represent the northern Eastern Shore, a sixth member for the southern parts of the Eastern Shore and the seventh commission member would serve at-large.
The commission, to be in place by 2003, would be appointed to four-year terms by the governor with and this is important the consent of the General Assembly. This would prohibit a governor sympathetic to the animal rights movement, as current Gov. Parris N. Glendening is thought to be, from appointing a commission that suits only his personal beliefs. The proposed WIFC is modeled after Pennsylvania's commission system of managing wildlife and freshwater fisheries. Pennsylvania frequently is cited as one of the best in the country in matters of effective wildlife management.
The move to create a wildlife commission at least in part was brought about because of the tremendous and varied responsibilities the current Department of Natural Resources faces daily. Years ago, the DNR dealt primarily with fishing and hunting. Nowadays, it consists of 16 major sub-offices that handle such things as woodlands, tree cuttings, greenways, oyster, clam and crab management, certain types of diggings and drillings, with sport fishing and recreational hunting increasingly taking a backseat. This is particularly true during an era when various DNR office heads are often replaced because of political and philosophical differences, not incompetence.
Says Frederick County hunting/fishing activist and newspaper writer Jim Gilford: "If the state's hunters and anglers don't get together and exert some pressure, we are going to lose everything. Right now, deer hunters are viewed as little more than a SWAT team [by the DNR] because there are too many deer. What about simply addressing recreational hunting without knee-jerk reaction whenever there's a need to get rid of animals that have become a nuisance?"
The head of the Maryland Coalition for Responsible Wildlife Management, Steve Palmer, says, "Our goal is political. With a recent mailing of 10,000 blaze orange post cards to our legislators, we have their attention and they know that we want wildlife and fisheries taken out of the current system and come under a commission in the style of Pennsylvania's."
It should be pointed out that Maryland has more than 400,000 hunters and anglers, and sometimes it requires only a block of 1,600 or 1,700 votes to elect a state delegate. It might not be bad idea for the legislators to listen to the men and women in the state whose primary recreation is fishing and hunting.
One of the legislators, Speaker of the House Casper R. Taylor, agrees. It was Taylor who introduced HB 664.
The bill will be heard Friday at 1 p.m. in the Lowe House Office Building, Room 160, in Annapolis. Please, try to be there to lend your support if you agree that action needs to be taken. If you can't attend, get in touch with your elected state representatives.
The coalition of sportsmen's clubs that started all this can be reached at 301/432-7121, or check its Web site, www.marylandcoalition.org.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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