DNR task force reels in retreads

November 11, 2007|By CANDUS THOMSON

Tired blood alert: Crack open the Geritol and pass it to the Department of Natural Resources.

After six months of dawdling, the leadership of the DNR last week rolled out the list of people it has selected to revise the state's fisheries management plan.

Same old cast of characters.

What a pity.

When Secretary John Griffin and sidekick Eric Schwaab took forever to recruit members for the Fisheries Management Task Force, they raised hope that perhaps they were about to do something bold, something to signal a new day, something to show that they are deeply worried about the decline in the number of recreational fishing licenses sold each year and the lack of interest in the sport by our tadpoles.

But nooooo. When given the opportunity to infuse the agency with new blood, the bosses reached for a pint of Old Granddad.

Now, as a middle-aged white woman, I have nothing against middle-aged white men. I'm happily married to one.

However, there's something to be said for too much of a good thing.

In a prepared statement, task force chairman Tom Lewis said he was looking forward to "taking a fresh look at our fishery management programs as a whole."

So why, then, tie his hands by filling the roster with guys who have been at the table for decades and who greased the skids for reservations this time, too? The roster includes Russell Dize, Rich Novotny, Bill Windley, Capt. Ed O'Brien, Jim Gracie and Larry Simns.

Gracie, Novotny and Windley were the architects and cheerleaders of the legislation that created the task force and doubled our fishing license fees in July. Novotny and Windley run the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association, a group in turmoil. Windley is a member of the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission. Gracie heads the Maryland Aquatic Resources Coalition, which rose from hibernation only to lobby for the task force.

Simns and Dize are members of the Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission. O'Brien belongs to the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission. Dize is also a proxy at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Even Coastal Conservation Association Maryland got two seats at the table despite a John Kerry-esque move, opposing the legislation after helping draft it. At least that group mixed it up, sending an old hand, Sherm Baynard, and a young whippersnapper.

Looks like almost everyone who helped the DNR get more money then helped himself to an appointment. Nice connections.

The DNR is arguing that its hands were tied by language in the bill - written by the above - that carefully spelled out the number of slots given to each organization. But with a little backbone, Griffin and Schwaab could have rejected the men who nominated themselves and insisted on a little diversity.

An aside: I guess the DNR couldn't think of any Geritol-peppy girl anglers to come and take the minutes. ("My wife - I think I'll keep her.")

Yet amid the backwash of tired red cells, it's nice to see three drops of new blood - Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman, Scott McGuire of CCA and Brian Keehn of the Maryland Charter Boat Association - made the cut. And in Lewis, a one-time lawyer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation who represents the Tangier Sound Watermen's Association, the task force gets a man who has seen both sides of the coin.

But still, what a depressing start.

The news release announcing the task force members noted that the group "will oversee a full review of current fishery management processes and develop recommendations for methods to improve, modernize, and streamline fishery management."

Makes you wonder what these guys already serving on the DNR advisory commissions have been doing. Well, I go to those meetings and let me tell you: They're protecting their own interests. Lewis will have to be a miracle worker to get these guys to stop fighting the last wars over season lengths, creel limits and allocations and focus on the big picture.

If they can't or won't, the fishing public - the folks who are paying the freight for this exercise - ought to raise hell with the members and the DNR leadership.

Besides, if things are a mess now, does it make any sense to turn to the folks on whose watch this happened and who lobbied for creation of the very body to which they were named?

Just asking.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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