I wonder who the deer would cast their vote for

October 04, 1998|By Harold Jackson

THEY'RE TALKING about having another "managed" deer hunt in Howard County. It will probably begin in the next two to three weeks, if County Executive Charles I. Ecker gives the go-ahead. There's no reason to expect that he won't, since he's set the precedent with last year's sanctioned hunt.

The event last fall was considered a success by its planners, falling only 10 short of the goal to kill 60 deer. More could be killed in the next hunt because the number of hunters allowed to participate may be increased to 50, from 26 hunters last year.

There is some irony in these hunts in that one stated reason for reducing the herd is to cut the number of deer killed in collisions with cars. Either way, they're dead. But of the two methods, I guess I would prefer the assumed swiftness of a fatal gunshot.

Only a couple of weeks ago my wife and I noticed a dead fawn on Dobbin Road in Columbia. It apparently had been hit by a car, then placed alongside the road out of traffic's way. Who knows how long the deer suffered before losing consciousness?

Death not soon enough

Death probably didn't come soon enough for a deer I saw last year. It broke its neck trying to jump a fence around the track at Oakland Mills High School. But its eyes didn't immediately become lifeless. Perhaps the deer would have preferred to have been shot.

Surely it would have preferred not trying to jump a chain-link fence whose height it miscalculated. It probably would have preferred not to have wandered onto a schoolyard. Maybe it would have preferred to be in real woods, not the subdivision dubbed "Stevens Forest" that surrounds the school.

The speculation raises a question: If deer could vote for county executive and council members, who would they choose? The "anti-growth" candidates or the "developers' friends"?

I don't think the deer want to see any more houses built. But to choose correctly they would have to do the same thing that human voters must. Look past the labels into each candidate's heart.

Similar views on growth

The labels don't mean much. Listen closely to the candidates and you notice the differences in their points of view on development are so subtle that they're almost nonexistent.

No one has been so radical as to propose a moratorium on growth. No one has been so foolish as to espouse unrestricted development.

Most people don't favor either extreme, but they do want change. Many are dissatisfied with existing safeguards against overdevelopment. In cases large and small, they refuse to quietly accept what they may not be able to stop.

Worthington residents are still trying to block construction of 11 houses on the last undeveloped plot in their subdivision. They're threatening to take the case to court if the county Zoning Board of Appeals doesn't provide relief.

Court also may be the next destination for homeowners who don't want the Rouse Co. to build a new housing and commercial development north of Laurel. They disagree with a controversial zoning change made by the County Council to facilitate the project.

The council can expect more conflict as Howard residents discover other plans for the few remaining parcels of land in the county suitable for development.

People who moved into communities because of their proximity to woods and streams are understandably upset when they find out those settings may be disturbed by new development.

How must the deer feel?

Just think how the deer must feel. What they still call home is more dangerous now than when it was inhabited by nonhuman predators.

There are those pesky cars and fences and so little food that they have to venture into gardens and farmland to find something to eat. Then, having trespassed, they have to watch out for hunters who seek to put them out of the misery of such an existence.

The rest of us can be thankful that we're not deer. Our fate isn't up to someone else.

Come Nov. 3, Howard County voters can go to the polls and put into office conscientious men and women who don't fit any of these labels being so cavalierly attached.

Development issues have few simple solutions. They almost always require some compromise that isn't going to satisfy everyone.

Where's the cutoff point?

The county needs and can sustain some additional development, particularly commercial enterprises that can generate additional revenue to pay for road and school improvements.

More residential development can be accommodated, too. It must be constructed, however, at a pace that does not overwhelm the schools and roads that the county already has.

And there must be a cutoff, a point at which the county says it doesn't want any more houses, schools or roads, or any fewer trees, farms or deer.

In the weeks before the election, voters ought to be finding out from the candidates exactly where they think that point may be.

Harold Jackson writes editorials about Howard County for The Sun.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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