Fisheries expert tapped as DNR official

Deputy Director Jensen was fired by Glendening

January 22, 2003|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

A fisheries expert fired by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening was hired yesterday by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to help run the Department of Natural Resources, a move seen as a olive branch to watermen.

Ehrlich named William P. Jensen of Stevensville as the deputy director of the department. Jensen will work under C. Ronald Franks, who was formally nominated yesterday to be DNR secretary.

But it was Jensen's appointment that created a buzz in the state's environmental community and among Marylanders who make their living working on the Chesapeake Bay.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions misspelled the name of Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. The Sun regrets the error.

Jensen, well respected by watermen, was fired in 2001 because of concerns he was too close to commercial fishermen and crabbers and held little regard for environmental concerns.

Yesterday, former DNR Secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers said she fired Jensen in 2001 from his former post as deputy director of fisheries at the request of Glendening's deputy chief of staff, Jennifer E. Crawford. People close to Crawford, who is now the former governor's wife, said yesterday that she had no role in Jensen's departure.

Among other concerns, Taylor-Rogers said Jensen was targeted because he wrote a letter in support of a commercial fisherman being prosecuted by DNR for violating fisheries regulations.

Paul E. Schurick, an Ehrlich spokesman, said Jensen was hired because he complemented Franks' strengths. Franks, a former state delegate, is a recreational fisherman -- a group whose agenda often clashes with watermen's -- and owns a fly-fishing shop.

"They represent some important constituencies that have not always gotten along," Schurick said.

Both recreational fishermen and watermen said yesterday that they are satisfied by Ehrlich's attempts to appease two groups that backed him during the campaign.

"This is absolutely the best news you could ever give me," Ed O'Brien, of the Charter Boat Association, said after he learned of Jensen's nomination. "I know recreational fisherman think he is partial to commercial, but he fights for everybody."

Franks and Jensen said restoring the Chesapeake Bay will be their top priorities at DNR, but caution they will also take into account the interests of those who make a living from the bay. "We have to work together to do that," Franks said.

One indication of Ehrlich's policies could come in a few months when the governor reviews restrictions on crabbing put in place by Glendening.

Larry Simms, president of the Maryland Waterman's Association, said his group wants Ehrlich to loosen the restrictions in some parts of the bay, and Ehrlich's spokesman promised yesterday a review of those rules.

But some groups are feeling left out. Besides regulating fishing and hunting, DNR manages the state's public lands and forestry efforts.

Jeff Leitner, program manager for the Washington-based Fund for Animals, said he is worried that Franks is too closely aligned to hunters. "My big concern is that DNR will return to complete bias for hunters and against wildlife," Leitner said.

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