New 'Outdoors Maryland' best yet


Here's an interesting nature note: Of all the species of animals in America, almost one third can be found somewhere within the borders of Maryland.

At the same time, however, more than 200 species that once roamed here, including wolf, elk and mountain lion, have been displaced or made extinct by the colonization of humankind.

"We must insure the health and survival of all ecosystems and the millions of species with which we share the Earth," intones narrator Larry Lewman in the most interesting segment of Maryland Public Television's new edition of "Outdoors Maryland." The nature/travelogue show can be seen at 9 tonight (channels 22 and 67).

Like other editions of the series, which recently won a regional Emmy and is co-produced by MPT and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, tonight's hour is a somewhat schizophrenic mix of stories.

Some have an obvious promotion and tourism goal, such as a feature on parasailing in Ocean City and another on the development of the Northern Central Railroad hiking/biking trail in Baltimore County.

And political imagery clearly comes into play in a piece on the new fish lift at the Conowingo Dam, for Gov. William Donald Schaefer is prominently seen at the recent dedication of the device. Like an elevator, it is designed to help diminished populations of shad and herring get upstream to spawn. Schaefer is seen suggesting that Pennsylvania officials need to do the same at three dams in their jurisdiction.

The piece is interesting, however, and also includes a look at the Patapsco and Patuxent Rivers, where fish ladders are being built or planned. And again as usual, this "Outdoors Maryland" includes some nicely photographed, purely environmental stories.

The best, from which the above species statistics are drawn, is a segment in which producer Bob Aherns traversed in just 48 hours Maryland's five distinct geologic/biologic regions: the Appalachian Plateau of Garrett County, the almost desert-like shale barrens of Washington County, the forested Blue Ridge band that is only 15 miles at its widest, the rolling agricultural yet most-populated Piedmont plateau and the coastal plain, with its wetlands, barrier islands and Atlantic shore.

Another lengthy piece visits the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, where scientists are trying to rebuild the nearly extinct population of whooping cranes. The same center has more recently begun to look into the alarming dwindling of the Chesapeake region's canvasback duck population.

And in an unusual segment, "Outdoors Maryland" leaves Maryland for the barren reaches of an island off the coast of Iceland, home of the orange-billed puffin. The flightless birds are collected here for the National Aquarium's popular exhibit, and the show follows Aquarium scientists on a study expedition.

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