- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

When new Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named C. Ronald Franks to head Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, most of the state's anglers and hunters rejoiced. Franks is a dentist and a hunting/fishing shop owner who appears to be firmly committed to the enhancement and protection of our natural resources.

In the days when Ehrlich and Franks served in the legislature, it was Franks who didn't mince words concerning the stature of the state fish, the striped bass. He wanted to make the rockfish, as Marylanders call it, a gamefish, which would have removed the species from a list of fish that can be pursued by the commercial netters the watermen. At the time, the effort failed, yet it remains a top priority with tens of thousands of recreational fishermen.

But all is not hugs and kisses in Annapolis. Word has it that when Ehrlich nominated Franks, the state's watermen had a temper tantrum. They feared Franks would seriously hurt their ability to earn a living. They were afraid that he would propose new regulations to clamp down on their activities.

So what did Ehrlich do? He selected a department deputy who would ease the watermen's headaches. In a delicate balancing act, William "Pete" Jensen, 68, has been named Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources. Jensen is a former fisheries chief of the DNR and currently senior consultant for the National Academy for Public Administration in Washington.

It is true that he has more than 40 years' experience in natural resources, including the areas of wildlife management, law enforcement, environmental review, marine mammal and endangered species management, writing and promulgating regulations and drafting legislation.

What also is true is that Jensen more than once has been a thorn in the side of sport fishermen. There was little argument in Annapolis or anywhere else that this Eastern Shore resident in the past showed overt favoritism to the commercial fish netters. Jensen never was considered a friend of the recreational angler.

So now we'll watch and see how this balancing act will come together. On one side, there's a DNR Secretary who seems to know what the money spenders in Maryland the anglers and hunters want their DNR to look like. On the other, there's Pete Jensen, whom the recreational anglers, at least, view as the netters' friend.

Incidentally, Franks, 60, owns Winchester Creek Outfitters and has his own dental practice. He went to Western Maryland College on a Senatorial Scholarship, with an emphasis in chemistry; attended the University of Maryland from 1961 to 1962; and completed his dental education at Georgetown Dental School cum laude in 1966. Franks lives in Queenstown on the Eastern Shore.

Meanwhile, always remember that a Republican governor is expected to look out for business, and just how much he'll worry about the watermen remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Why dredge the few oysters we have? The Potomac River Fisheries Commission and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are looking at the possibility of allowing commercial oystermen to use mechanized dredges to scrape oysters from the Potomac River's bottom, or from the floor of the Chesapeake Bay.

Imagine that. There aren't enough oysters now in the state to make a decent pot of oyster stew and we have government types out there who think power dredges are the way to go. Yeah, that would ensure that all the oysters would be gone in no time.

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


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