Officials OK watershed agreement

`Deer management' part of reservoir protection effort


Baltimore City and Baltimore and Carroll counties agreed yesterday on a range of steps to protect the region's reservoirs - including a "deer-management program" that some involved said will almost certainly lead to a controlled hunt.

A deer-management program will likely be in place by the end of next year, said Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who declined to elaborate on what that program would entail. The agreement signed yesterday does not give details on any such program.

Baltimore County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire was one of two involved in the agreement who said yesterday to expect a deer hunt.

"If we're going to really be serious about protecting the watershed to feed the 1.8 million people" who get drinking water from the reservoirs, McIntire said, "we have to cull the deer herd."

The deer are blamed for destroying forest that protects the reservoirs from runoff.

And Gould Charshee, who helped craft the agreement for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, said yesterday that a deer hunt is the only practical way to reduce the deer population.

McIntire said the location of any hunt, whether on watershed property or not, would be decided later. McIntire, along with Smith, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, Carroll County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge and state environmental officials, signed the Reservoir Watershed Management Agreement.

The agreement, signed at a ceremony overlooking the Loch Raven Dam in Baltimore County, updates a 1984 pact intended to protect the land surrounding the Loch Raven, Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs. Those reservoirs provide drinking water for much of the region.

The agreement calls for limiting development along the watershed, and performing periodic tests on water for substances such as sodium and phosphorus. Under the pact, scientists will study how neighboring horse farms and road salt used during snowstorms affect the reservoirs.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said the agreement will help protect the quality of drinking water for future generations.

Richards Badmington, president of the Hampton Improvement Association, urged officials to "act immediately" to control the deer population around the reservoir.

"The deer issue has been studied within an inch of its life," said Badmington, who favors hunting or hiring sharpshooters. "The deer issue will only get worse between now and whenever another study might be finished."

He added, "As far as we know there are no new issues, just politics. We all know it's an election year."

The debate has stirred emotions. Enid Fineberg, who lives in Phoenix in northern Baltimore County, formed a group of residents opposed to deer hunting and circulated a petition that asks local officials to find other ways to control the deer population. She favors nonlethal methods such as birth control.

"Hunting is an antiquated method of managing the deer. ... They need to look at the modern solutions available to deal with deer-human conflicts," she said.

Charshee, of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, said contraceptive darts would not meet the standards of the federal Food and Drug Administration. He said the deer are destroying forest that filters runoff.

"There are no young trees growing up because the deer have decimated them," Charshee said. "They feed on them, they nibble on the leaves, they rub against them. Some of them will eat the tender bark of the trees. If you strip all the leaves off of a young tree, it's not going to grow."

Earlier this year, Smith, the Baltimore County executive, asked officials from the city to help control the deer in the city-owned woodlands surrounding the reservoirs. He also asked state biologists to help find ways to reduce the county's deer population.

Community groups circulated a petition calling for the county to implement a comprehensive managed hunt or sharpshooter program.

Residents signing the petition and Smith pointed to previous studies and recommendations that they said were never followed. A 1999 watershed deer-management plan prepared by a task force of county residents and city, county and state officials called for controlled hunting programs and the installation of fences.

Bow-hunting is permitted in the Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs, and farmers with permits are allowed to hunt on their properties.

Sun reporter Laura Barnhardt contributed to this article.

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