They are often called "tree huggers" by those who don't appreciate the zeal they bring to saving the natural environment. At their most strident, members of the Sierra Club, wild animal protectors, Greenpeace activists and the like throw up blockades in front of any manner of progress: a nuclear submarine, a power plant, a residential development.
At times, their cause seems misguided; other times, however, they seem to come to the rescue when they are needed most.
A recent case in point involves the Howard County Sierra Club, which has begun a campaign to re-seed portions of county parkland along the Middle Patuxent River. People on motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles have used the parkland for joy rides which destroy vegetation, disturb the topsoil and cause erosion.
Attempts to keep motorists away from the parkland, north of Gorman Road, involved the erection of barricades -- to no avail. When the barricades could not be removed, joy riders simply cut down a row of 20 trees to gain access.
"These are beautiful, healthy trees," lamented Susan Polniaszek, a member of the county's Sierra Club. We share her obvious sadness and frustration.
Those who wantonly destroy protected spaces deserve the strongest condemnation. The community has been well served by members of the Sierra Club and residents living near the parkland who have come to its defense.
They are not the only protectors worth noting: Colonial Pipeline, a Georgia-based company which owns a path through the parkland that is used by motorists, has donated $500 to the project, and AT&T;, which owns another path, re-seeded its right-of-way to help halt erosion. Also, the Annapolis-based Chesapeake Bay Foundation made a $900 donation to shoring up the park.
The good works don't stop there. Nine Howard County high school students joined the Maryland Conservation Corps in a recent clean-up of the Little Patuxent River and Beaver Run Creek. The project involves cleaning debris and fallen trees from the two waterways in an area behind the Allview Estates community.
When the result is saving the pristine beauty of our natural surroundings, the term "tree hugger" doesn't seem derisive at all.