Mother Nature is still taking it on the chin in Anne Arundel County despite the dozen or more groups dedicated to protecting the environment.
Hoping to get a handle on the problem, many of those groups met for the first time yesterday.
"It strikes me that we are just not effective," said Keith Oliver, a member of the Annapolis Town Meeting on the Environment. "If you take the sum total of our individual efforts, it just doesn't add up."
A. L. "Red" Waldron, chairman of the Severn River Commission,said he organized yesterday's gathering to acquaint the groups and, if possible, merge their efforts.
Commission members became aware of the lack of communication when they began devising a strategy to protect the Severn's 70-square-mile watershed. They realized they were unaware of what other Severn-oriented groups were doing and vice versa.
"All these groups are devoted, in one way or another, to preserving the environment," Waldron said. "But I don't know that they are moving in the same direction."
Jay Baldwin, with the Annapolis Conservancy Board, agreed:"One of the primary problem organizations have isgetting people outside their groups aware of what their mission is."
After brief introductions, the 90-minute debate focused on how the separate groups might best help one another. Waldron said he ultimately envisions a loose federation of all the county groups, drawing upon one another for expertise and political support.
Oliver said he would like to see the groups draft a list of common environmental goals, which could be used to shape government policy.
"The government should be doing this, but it's not even coming close," Oliver said.
Oliver complained that the five "visions" spelled out by the Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region fell short of actually setting policy. The General Assembly rejected that commission's report in the recent session, promising to study the issue more this summer.
Susan Youngs, a member of the Sierra Club, said the groups could rally around the development issue.
"Every time you see a forested tract of land, you think 'Wow, whyisn't this developed? What's wrong here?' " said Youngs. "I know that's horrible to say, but it's true. You come to expect everything to be developed."
Other groups involved in the discussion included the League of Women Voters, the Greater Severna Park Council, the Maryland Waste Coalitionand the South County Environmental Commission.
Although the groups reached no consensus, Waldron said, after the meeting, that progress was made. Representatives agreed to meet again April 25.