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Sportsmen target Md. gun policies

February 08, 2001

Sportsmen target Md. gun policies



From AP and staff reports

Some Maryland sportsmen are uniting against what they perceive as a threat to the future of hunting and wildlife management in the state.

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Steve Palmer, president of the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said he and many other area sportsmen take issue with what they consider Gov. Parris Glendening's anti-hunting stance.

Palmer said area hunters will have to decide if they want to take their business to other states, pursue legislation or even boycott Maryland licenses to get their point across.

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The Coalition of Western Maryland Sportsmen, representing 21 clubs with a total membership of about 4,000, will consider the proposal at a meeting Sunday in Hagerstown.

Since 61 percent of the money to run DNR hunting programs comes from license fees, Palmer said a boycott would send the message that sportsmen are angry.

"We're putting forth a unified effort to combine voices," said Palmer.

Some Eastern Shore groups also have expressed interest in a boycott, he said.

Palmer said Glendening has given minimal support to youth and women's hunting programs and is too selective in his administration of wildlife management policies.

"It's a blatant attempt to end hunting in Maryland," said Palmer, 52, of Keedysville.

Palmer said the last straw was a change last year in the Department of Natural Resources' support for youth hunter education.

Michael Slattery, director of the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Division, said he wants local sportsmen to start organizing such activities, although the state will provide technical support.

Palmer said he believes the public should sponsor youth programs but that the state should contribute more than it does.

Some hunters in the state's rural western area say they are angered by the degree of influence animal welfare groups appear to exert over wildlife management policies.

Glendening stunned hunters by appointing animal-rights activist E. Joseph Lamp to the state Wildlife Advisory Commission, traditionally a pro-hunting panel, in 1997.

The governor also rejected the advice of the wildlife commission, as well as a citizens task force and state wildlife biologists, in refusing to allow bear hunting.

He also ignored the wildlife commission's recommendation for a limited hunt of migratory Canada geese and has convened a task force to investigate nonlethal forms of wildlife management.

One group not buying into a boycott is the statewide Maryland Sportsmen's Association.

"We don't work that way. We build bridges, not burn them," President Tim Lambert said. "We're all frustrated, but you don't sever the lines of communication. If you're not invited back to the table, you don't accomplish anything."

Palmer said it's time for activism, not diplomacy.

"Some hunters think we might be shooting ourselves in the foot," Palmer said. "But we know for sure that if we do nothing, then things will just get worse for hunters in Maryland."

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