DNR is closing down the channels of communicationIf things...

Outdoor Journal

January 09, 1992|By Bill Burton

DNR is closing down the channels of communication

If things continue as they are, don't expect any bad news from the Department of Natural Resources in '92 -- not that there won't be any, mind you -- but the department will be doing its best to control the flow of all information.

At the Chesapeake Sportsfishing Show, I asked DNR's respected rockfish hatchery chief Ben Florence about plans for '92's program. Florence apologized, citing new policy prohibiting his responding directly to The Evening Sun. I had to go through channels to get public information from a personal friend of long standing -- a scientist I've dealt with openly for 25 years.

All of the media face the same restrictions. One Washington newsman spent much of a day trying to get two simple figures -- last spring's trophy rock catch, and the number of fish killed unintentionally by those fishing for trophies. The answers eventually turned out to be 149 caught, 6,100 killed.

The columnist was denied this information directly from his long-standing DNR contact (not Florence), and had to keep calling to get the answers from the information staff, which had to call the contact he originally sought for the answer. They then relayed it to him -- in pieces.

Robb Gould is the new information officer, the department's official spokesman. He has no credentials in natural resources. Personnel are rigged with beepers to facilitate inter-departmental official response to queries, which insulates those-in-the-know from personally offering details to anyone outside the department -- including you.

There will be no more access in coverage of late-breaking matters after working hours, no more home inquiries. It's now office-hour responses -- through Gould.

Some disgruntled employees, who have dealt with the media directly in the past, attribute the new policy to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's insistence on first knowing the answers. Because of his limited background in complex natural resources issues, spokesman Gould has already made a few blunders with the electronic media.

Where in all of this is DNR's outspoken and otherwise capable secretary, Torrey C. Brown, who has a record of plain speaking himself, and allowing his staff to tell it like it is? It's a dangerous precedent for a service-oriented department, which incidentally has the largest information staff (more than 20) of any in the state. It's a blatant gag rule. Enough said.

This weekend ...

The next best thing to fishing is the eighth annual edition of BASS Expo, which opens a three-day run tomorrow at the Cow Palace of Timonium Fairgrounds where there will be literally tens of thousands of bass baits on display -- most for sale.

Also featured will be many booths manned by guides and other bass'n experts, bassboats, outboards, bow motors and about anything else associated with fishing.

Saturday's highlight will be the state finals of the BASS Master BP Casting Kids Contest. Among pro bass fishermen offering seminars will be Woo Daves, Shaw Grigsby, Randy Romig and Greg South, a second-place finisher in the BASS Masters Classic in 1984. Romig finished second last year, and Daves, third.

Tomorrow's hours are 2 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 9 to 9, and Sunday, 10 to 6. Admission is $5 for adults; $2 for youngsters 10 to 14, and those under 10 are free. Call 574-6139.

Calendar ...

Saturday: Molson Challenge and Mid-Atlantic Snowboard Series, Wisp Ski Area, Deep Creek Lake. Call 334-1948.

* Tuesday: Trail guide training sessions at Oregon Ridge Nature Center. Call 887-1854.

* Wednesday: Washington Boat Show opens a six-day run, Washington Convention Center, call 1-703-569-7141.

* Wednesday: Keith Walters, author of Chesapeake Stripers, will speak at a 7:30 p.m. public meeting of Freestate Fly Fishers at Hillsmere Elementary School, Annapolis. Call 1-410-798-1194.

Planning ahead ...

Jan. 17: Dodge Morgan, who at age 53 set the world record for the fastest solo, non-stop sail around the world, will describe his 150-day trip in a lecture at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel, Annapolis. Admission, $10. Call 1-800-937-BOAT.

* Jan. 18-26: Opening of the eighth annual International Auto Show, Baltimore Convention Center. Many 1992 outdoor type vehicles will be on display. Call 321-8733.

* Jan. 18: Central Maryland BASS Masters Fishermen's Flea Market, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Freedom Community Center, Route 32 just south of Liberty Road. Call 442-2323.

* Jan. 19: Annual trout fishing clinic of the highly popular Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wheaton High School Cafeteria, 12601 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton, off Randolph Road, just west of Georgia Avenue. Admission, $3. Call Ruth Novick, 410-384-0424.

* Jan. 19: DNR Junior Rabbit Hunting Course, youngsters 12 to 15, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Howard County Fairgrounds. Pre-registration required. Call 461-3007.

* Jan. 23-26: Mid-Atlantic Outdoor Sportsmen's Show, Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium.

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