- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 8, 2003

Nobles: Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, for not backing down a bit on Lynn Buhl.

It's no secret that environmental groups are not friends of Mr. Ehrlich. During last fall's gubernatorial campaign, many endorsed his opponent and some even sponsored radio spots saying that Mr. Ehrlich was "hazardous to your health." Since his unexpected election, and despite his repeated attempts to reach out to them since then (including addressing a legislative forum on the environment), environmentalists have fought him beak and claw.

Yet, having few friends in the environmental community does not make one unfriendly to the environment. During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Mr. Ehrlich amassed a solid environmental record, sponsoring legislation designed to continue the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and supporting legislation on land conservation, wetlands protection and brownfields restoration.

Lynn Buhl, Mr. Ehrlich's nominee to head the Maryland Department of the Environment, is also a friend of the Earth, as evidenced by her exceptional work on brownfields cleanup as an environmental lawyer for Chrysler Corp.

This points to the real reason that Maryland Democrats and environmentalists so dislike Ms. Buhl: She is not only a Republican, she had the effrontery to work in the administration of former Michigan Gov. John Engler. Perhaps even worse, she appears to honestly believe that there can, and should be, a balance between industrial production and environmental protection.

Mr. Ehrlich honestly believes she is the best choice, and he's fought for her at every point. After a group of environmentalists announced that they would try to defeat Ms. Buhl's nomination, the governor's communications director told reporters that those groups would not have a seat at the table. When a Senate committee took the unprecedented action of voting to reject Ms. Buhl on Monday, Mr. Ehrlich refused to allow anyone in the administration to testify on behalf of a proposal to increase fines for water pollution.

None of this has necessarily been healthy for Maryland's environment, but Mr. Ehrlich has acted nobly by sticking up for the environment and standing by his nominee.

Knaves: The keepers of the National Zoo, for turning a nationally renowned animal display into an animal farm of incompetence.

It's not as noisy as it used to be at the National Zoo. Not as many children are squealing, not as many animals are sounding. But the empty animal pens there, and at the zoo's research facility in Virginia, give mute testimony to how sadly amiss things have gone. Over the last three years, the people charged with the trust of maintaining the vitality of those living national treasures may have instead killed 10 of them.

Officially, human error contributed to the deaths of four animals two zebras that were killed by malnutrition and hypothermia, and two red pandas that were poisoned by pesticide. However, it's likely that the animal keepers had a hand in the deaths of six others. Tana, a middle-age lion, was an apparent victim of complications caused by anaesthesia applied during a routine checkup. Three deer, one of which was considered the most genetically valuable member of the species in North America, were killed in two separate dog attacks. A rare Persian onager died after contracting salmonella from a dirty truck. Salmonella also contributed to the death of Pensi, a middle-age orangutan. Pensi was sickened with salmonella following surgery on a cancerous intestine. However, the zoo's veterinarians mistook the treatable infection for cancer, and had Pensi euthanized.

After a congressional hearing into the matter this week, Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence M. Small and National Zoo Director Lucy Spelman agreed to an independent review and unannounced visits by federal inspectors. Those inspectors should visit frequently and examine carefully, since it's imperative that the National Zoo be restored to the treasure that it once was.

For making a mockery of a menagerie of rare and colorful creatures, the National Zoo's managers are the knaves of the week.

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