Programs Protect Nontidal Wetlands
On April 26, an article in The Sun wrongly attacked one of the most innovative and successful nontidal wetlands protection programs in the nation.
It is incomprehensible to me that, after interviewing representatives from both the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Sun could so completely misrepresent the facts, unless it was purposefully trying to mislead the public.
I would like to set the record straight.
The facts are: In 1989, Gov. William Donald Schaefer introduced innovative and comprehensive legislation designed to protect Maryland's nontidal wetlands.
As a result, we now control all activities that can affect important wetland values.
Ours was the first state law to declare a goal of "no net loss" of wetland acreage and function, even to strive for a gain in wetlands over time. Contrary to The Sun's portrayal of the program, I believe it is an overwhelming success.
Since Jan. 1, 1991, Maryland has not only achieved its goal of no net loss of wetlands, it will post a gain of over four acres through the permit review program alone. In addition, private organizations and other government agencies not associated with DNR's program have created almost 79 acres of wetlands in Maryland since January 1991.
Maryland's protection program has not only significantly reduced nontidal wetland loss, it can document a gain in the acreage of wetlands. The permit process has allowed an average of just over 20 acres per year to be destroyed, compared to the hundreds of acres destroyed annually prior to the start of the state program. Obviously, this is a dramatic decline in the amount of wetlands being lost in Maryland.
DNR would certainly prefer to see construction of a new or restored wetland concurrent with the loss of one due to an authorized project. However, a number of factors can delay a project; collecting information needed to make sure the wetland creation will be successful and waiting for the best time of year to grade or plant a site. In no case do delays reduce the mitigation debt.
Another goal of the Maryland law has been to streamline the review process for applicants. Mandatory time frames for permit review, the opening of field offices in Frostburg and Salisbury, a one-stop permit service center that allows for coordinated reviews among all state and federal agencies, pre-application consultations and site visits, and training workshops all around the state have done much to improve consumer service and educate people about wetlands.
In this process, many people have redesigned their projects to reduce wetland impacts even before applying for a permit.
Torrey C. Brown
The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
____________ The headline for the April 26 article by Tim Wheeler in The Sun Acclaimed state law is failing to halt decline of Md. wetlands") gives the misleading impression that Maryland's Nontidal Wetland Protection Act is ineffective.
On the contrary, over the last two years Maryland's nontidal wetlands program has proven itself to be one of the most effective state programs for the protection of wetlands anywhere in the country. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation continues to be a strong supporter of the program, despite the impression one might get from the article.
Although estimates of the total rate of loss of wetlands in Maryland both before and after enactment of the law are uncertain, wetland losses in Maryland are lower today -- probably by a factor of 20 or more -- than they were before the law came into effect.
Furthermore, the size of the impacts to wetlands that are approved by the Department of Natural Resources is often substantially smaller than what had been originally proposed. Maryland's nontidal wetlands program does protect wetlands.
The issue raised by Mr. Wheeler's article relates not to primary protection of existing wetlands, but to mitigation of the wetland losses.
When destruction of wetlands does occur, federal and state laws require that we mitigate to the extent possible for the destruction. Mitigation usually takes the form of the creation or restoration of wetlands nearby.
Records at the Department of Natural Resources suggest that construction has begun for few required mitigation projects. Nonetheless, the mitigation requirements are still in force; no mitigation requirements have been bypassed. Mitigation projects have just been slow reaching construction.
The process of designing and building mitigation projects can be costly and time consuming, as DNR's own experience with mitigation shows.
As Maryland's nontidal wetlands regulations are currently drafted, DNR has little leverage with which to pressure those who owe mitigation to complete their designs in a timely manner. Predictably, requests for extensions are common, and final designs are often late. DNR is aware of the problem, and is already examining ways to speed mitigation efforts to completion.
Ideally, mitigation efforts should begin before harm is done to existing wetlands.
Failing that, the delay between destroying wetlands and making up for their loss should be as short as possible. Thus any delays initiating construction of mitigation are troubling, but not catastrophic. The delays certainly do not constitute failure of the nontidal wetlands program, as suggested by your headline.
The headline belies the substantial achievements of Maryland's nontidal wetlands program.
Unfortunately, it will provide fodder for those who oppose wetlands protection efforts entirely, yet will do little to encourage ways to shorten the time between destruction of an existing wetland and mitigation for its loss.
Curtis C. Bohlen
The writer is a staff scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Baltimore Needs Real School Choice
I've appreciated your series of editorials on public school education in Baltimore. As a parent with three young children, living in a mostly poor neighborhood in West Baltimore, this is close to my heart.
My children had the good fortune to transfer into a better city school in another district. Nearby friends use parochial schools as far away as Catonsville and Glen Burnie, or have left the city.
Distrust of the public schools cuts across income and race. Every morning, I see children from the poorest tenements leaving for school in parochial uniforms.
Baltimore's schools are a terrible liability, not only to neighborhoods that seek to attract home-owners and stable residents. They help to escalate urban flight from all sections. The poor performance offers no relief to children born into a culture of poverty, crime and welfare dependency.
We don't need reform. We need revolution. The issue must be refocused away from how to salvage and transform a failing system to how to best educate Baltimore's children.
It's not hard to answer. Baltimore is full of schools that do a fine job educating and civilizing children in a clean and safe environment. They are the private and church-sponsored schools. We need a voucher system -- now.
The individual child cannot wait five years or ten years for a school to figure out how to teach him to read, write, do math, comprehend science and history. For that child, rich or poor, black or white, the time is now or never.
For most public school children in Baltimore, it is never. Yet the most pressing issue the school system wanted to grapple with this year was redistricting. Meanwhile, our superintendent pursues an untested theory of "efficacy" as though it were the Holy Grail.
Nor is public school choice exclusively the answer, as Mary Pat Clarke has briefly suggested. There aren't enough orderly, clean, academically oriented schools in Baltimore for all the parents who want to use them. The handful accept few, if any, transfers.
Except on certain ideological grounds -- public schools as the great leveler, the dispenser of correct social attitudes -- how do you argue with a voucher system?
I would bet that there is more mixing of races and income groups in many parochial schools than in most city neighborhood schools, which studies and simple observation tell us have become stratified by race and income.
The fact is that Baltimore's private and church-sponsored schools do a much better job of educating children. That's why parents in my mostly poor and black neighborhood make the sacrifices to send their children to parochial schools.
Wouldn't children with less-concerned parents be better off in a private-sector school? There, schools don't have to battle the union to fire incompetent teachers. Or put up with reeking toilets and littered playgrounds because custodians don't clean.
And in the private sector, a wide variety of schools exist. So you get away from the one-size-fits-all approach to education, or from the impossible task of creating schools that minister to every child and every learning style, as a recent article by Jane Stern of the Maryland State Teachers Association seems to advocate, and which seems to be the utopian goal of the "efficacy" theory.
There will be problems, of course. Kids with disciplinary problems won't find it easy to stay in the school of their choice, but that might provide incentives to change.
Some parents still won't bother to get their children to school in the morning. I would suggest we spend some of the savings from using a voucher system on hiring truancy officers.
If there are not enough places in the private and parochial schools to handle all our children who want to attend, perhaps unpopular existing public schools could be turned over to private educators.
A voucher system may not bode well for public schools, but is that the most important issue? I'd rather see our children educated now.
We have to face the fact that despite ever-increasing money spent in our public schools and constant plans for reform, Baltimore's system is a dismal failure.
On the plus side, vouchers could make a drastic difference in halting the continuing flight of all income groups from the city. If you knew you weren't dependent on your neighborhood school, wouldn't you be more willing to stay in the city, or in one of the "transitional" neighborhoods that so desperately needs you?
The structures for educating children successfully already exist in Baltimore's private sector. At what point do the cost of preserving and metamorphosing a failing public system outweigh the benefit of opening those educational opportunities our children?
Elizabeth W. Philip
Senate Can Judge Packwood's Election
I find your editorial, "Stop Harassing Senator Packwood" (The Sunday Sun, May 9), quite surprising, especially in its adamant tone in view of contravening direct and indirect evidence to the contrary.
As a third-generation native Oregonian I have a special interest, even though I am a long-term and happy resident of Maryland. According to my copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution states as follows: "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members. . . .
"Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member."
It seems to me that the Senate is, in fact, judging the election of Senator Packwood. Otherwise, just what did the Founding Fathers have in mind when they included the phrase "judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members"?
What are the possible conditions under which, if proven beyond a reasonable doubt, an election might be fraudulent to the point of being reversible? (And is there any kind of statute of limitations on when it may be reversed?)
How about vote-buying? How about the spreading of a 'f deliberate falsehood about an opponent -- a baseless charge, for example, that he has sexually abused children or stolen funds from his church? How about deliberately excluding potential opposition voters?
How about if a candidate's age were misstated -- deliberately or inadvertently -- and it was determined after the election that he did not meet the constitutionally mandated minimum age? Or that he was not a legal resident of where he claimed to be?
You also claim that voters cannot recall a member of Congress. They can certainly do so beyond any doubt when he is up for re-election -- and only those members who do not intend to run again do not forget this fact for very much of their term.
And, since a member of Congress is elected by the exact same voters who elect state officials, does he (or she) represent the people of the state any less than do state officials? If not, then why the difference in recall provisions?
I also note that early in your editorial you suggest that Sen. Bob Packwood is being considered for expulsion from the Senate because he failed to tell the truth.
Later on you say that "He lied when he denied rumors. . ." Is "failed to tell the truth" exactly the same as lying -- or is there a difference? In my judgment, after years of thought, a person lies when he states something that he knows is not true or when he withholds information when he should know that doing so will probably lead to an incorrect conclusion, the same effect that a lie will have.
Elected officials definitely need some freedom of action. But at the same time, human nature having proven to be what it is on so many occasions, the public needs a continuing method of controlling the possible worst aspects of its elected officials. I do not believe that the recall is likely to be abused. The incumbent will always have the benefit of the doubt. . . .
I agree with your statement that "elections are the proper device to deny unfit individuals high office." I would include recall elections -- so that the miscreant incumbent cannot continue possible repulsive activities for up to six years. However, U.S. presidents are also elected -- and yet the Constitution specifically gives Congress the authority to remove one from office without waiting for the next regular election. When the Constitution was adopted, the recall of the president would have been much easier than now; simply reassemble the electors -- with possibly a few who had died absent and replaced.
So the recall election may not be the only appropriate corrective device -- and perhaps less appropriate as the sole means of early termination on the national scene where the actions of persons elected within a state can affect other states. . . .
When Men and Women Go to War
David Evans' "Women, Combat and What it Takes," (Opinion * Commentary, May 12) stresses the physical differences between the sexes; and they are real.
Let me cite three areas outside the military where women compete with men for dangerous jobs: smoke jumpers in the U.S. Forest Service; police, and firefighters.
Women can jump as well as men -- they have the guts; but they simply do not have the physical strength, in most cases, to carry the very heavy equipment that smoke jumpers must use once they are on the ground. Women are as good as men in police
work, where sheer physical strength is not so important; but not as good in firefighting, where physical strength is often very important.
Now let's take the infantry. Willis Case Rowe forcibly makes his case in his letter that women have no place in the infantry. He is a combat infantry officer, and he quotes your editorial of April 29 that "Standards that legitimately relate to combat readiness have to be gender-neutral -- the same for men and women." I agree.
However, women can do some jobs in the infantry as well as
men. I served in the infantry as an enlisted man in World War II and Korea. I went to Europe in World War II (Combat Infantry Badge and two bronze battle stars) and to Fort Dix during the Korean business. From my observations and experience, the most valuable qualities for infantry personnel (I didn't say infantrymen) are obedience and endurance. You don't have to ** be very smart.
In the early years of World War II, the Army Air Corps got 80 percent of the men in the two highest categories on the Army General Intelligence Test, as they needed men who could be trained quickly.
The ground forces got the rest, with the artillery getting the best and the infantry the worst. In 1944, 75 percent of the noncommissioned officers in the ground forces had not graduated from high school, and a staggering 40 percent had never even been in high school.
But the infantry did most of the dying. In the European theater, the infantry comprised only 6 percent of all the armed services; yet they had 80 percent of all the casualties. These casualties had to be replaced, and I was one of those transferred from an anti-aircraft training school, mostly high school graduates, to an infantry replacement training camp, mostly high school dropouts.
Combat was terrifying, and I was horribly frightened a good part of the time. But I never had to fix my bayonet or cut a throat. In fact, I rarely saw the enemy, cover and concealment being so important in the infantry. The one time I had to throw a grenade, I was more of a menace to my buddies than to the enemy: I throw like a girl. Incidentally, a lot of men throw like girls, and a lot of girls throw better than men.
Our entrenching tools, small shovels, were more useful to us than our rifles, and statistics bear that out: 85 percent of infantry casualties were caused by shrapnel. Our rifles were more like security blankets, comforting to hold when scared, especially at night.
I suspect not too many women will volunteer for the infantry; but not too many men volunteer for the infantry, either. Gen. Leslie McNair, commander of all ground forces in World War II, complained that only 5 percent of the men inducted into the Army asked for the infantry or other combat arms like the artillery or armor.
I can understand why. Besides the opportunity of being killed or wounded, which is very good to excellent, the food is terrible and the living conditions deplorable: I once went one month without a shower or a change of clothing. You are as filthy as a coal miner, but coal miners get a shower at the end of the day and clean clothes.
Women would probably not do well in heavy weapons, i.e., machine guns and mortars. They are called light machine guns and light mortars, but they weigh a ton, and you have to carry them and their ammo. It would be like smoke jumpers.
Women agents were parachuted into occupied France in World War II and did as well as men. They need great courage and a lot of smarts and very little physical strength. Women can do those jobs as well or better than men. And don't forget, we got $10 extra every month for our Combat Infantry Badge!
I am writing to address the inane remarks made by Willis Case Rowe (Letters to the Editor, May 12) who feels he can speak for women as to their reasons for joining the military.
I joined the Army in 1976 and was in the first group of women to go through ROTC. I joined because of duty, honor and country. To give something back to my country for the wonderful opportunities I have been given as a United States citizen.
I joined knowing full well that I could be called to serve in a combat area. I gladly went on active duty when called by my commander in chief during Desert Storm. I did not go for status or money.
I proudly served in the same unit as my husband and did not want to belittle him or any man.
Mr. Rowe writes about killing between men and women being a && violation of a fundamental biological taboo.
The majority of murders and assaults on women in this country every year are done by the significant male in their lives. Maybe it would not be that difficult to turn the "savagery" on the enemy. Who knows, maybe women might learn a way of protecting themselves from predatory males.
I do no think it is in the best interest of this country to consider the feelings of the enemy in making U.S. military policy. As a soldier, I will obey orders, any orders, including cutting the throat of an enemy soldier.
I expect that the enemy would attempt to do the same. If he hesitates killing a woman, then that gives me an advantage and I can kill him.
I took an oath and will honor it with my dying breath. There are always soldiers, both men and women, who will dishonor their oath and refuse to fight.
They should be treated in the same harsh manner regardless of gender. The same as anyone who commits a criminal act in this country.
This letter has not addressed the complicated issue of whether women should serve in combat or not, but the silly generalizations Mr. Rowe made.
Please do not attempt to tell me or the thousands of other women who have proudly worn their uniform why they are doing it.
The women who proudly served and who were taken as prisoners and who died during Desert Storm -- as well as in other wars -- are belittled by those second-guessing their motives.
Debra Ann Dubois
4 The writer is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves.