Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

A good gift and a grimy legacy Environment: Cheers for the state's low-cost quad maps, and tears for the Virginia governor's insensitivity to the Chesapeake.


Last week's column incorrectly stated that Virginia Gov. George Allen's term lasts two more years. He leaves office in January 1998. We regret the error.

THIS WEEK: different shades of green: the perfect last-minute environmental Christmas gift, and the ignorance of Virginia Gov. George Allen's grimy legacy to the Chesapeake Bay.

First, this hot holiday shopping tip -- quad maps. With a budget of $10, I found the perfect gift for two friends who are moving to the lower Eastern Shore.

What better way to welcome and orient anyone to an area than with a quad map. The place to get one is the map counter at the Maryland Geological Survey at 2300 St. Paul St.

There, all Maryland is divided into 255 quadrangles -- "quads" -- the most detailed, easily usable maps of the state that are generally available.

Four dollars will get you a single quad, roughly 2 feet by 1 1/2 feet, in pleasing hues of greens and blues, that shows 64 square miles. (I went crazy and got 128 square miles in two quads.)

Based on aerial photos taken during the 1970s and 1980s, a quad shows one's home region with an intimacy guaranteed to awaken an urge for exploration.

Every farm field, building, ditch, pond, quarry pit, bog, jeep trail, stream headwaters and old logging road is sharply identifiable on a quad map.

Even if you have lived in a place all your life, you'll see features you never knew existed. And quads show enough of topography and water depths to be useful for paddling and hiking expeditions. Elevations are stated in red numbers.

It takes about 10 quads to show a jurisdiction the size of Baltimore County. If you order by phone from MGS ([410] 554-5505), you'll need to describe the area you want. Or, you can ask for the List of Publications, which contains a master chart for the state.

Quads are available for the entire nation. Call 1 (800) USA-MAPS at the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition, private suppliers exist, and MGS can give you their phone numbers.

Acquiring intimate knowledge of the places where we live is an important part of learning to care for the environment, and quads are a fine and inexpensive entry into one's home landscape.

Sadly, there was not much new about some recent developments -- yet another scathing report that the Allen administration in Virginia has coddled polluters and emasculated environmental enforcement.

This, after all, is a governor whose top environmental appointee, Natural Resources Secretary Becky Norton Dunlop, proudly served as an assistant secretary of Interior under James G. Watt.

Under Dunlop, state agencies have to celebrate Earth Day as "Environmental Spring Day." She is mystified by concerns about population growth, saying the more people there are in the bay watershed, the more likely it is one of them will come up with new solutions to environmental problems.

It is an open secret that Virginia is making only a minimal effort to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals on time -- or likely anytime in Allen's tenure, which runs two more years.

The latest report, a 225-page document coming from a bipartisan Virginia legislative committee, is the heaviest fire yet trained on Allen and Dunlop.

It lists 17 cases in which Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality apparently relaxed or bent state and federal rules on pollution.

Allen is, predictably, unrepentant, telling the Washington Post last week:

"I guess what they would prefer, these people who are carping and whining, is we just shut down these businesses, run them out of the state and all the people who work for them lose their job."

The legislature, he said, is carrying on President Clinton's tradition of "just manufacturing an environmental scare."

All of which is why I used the word "ignorance" in the top of this column to describe the Allen-Dunlop approach; both are very smart people, but they ignore or woefully misinterpret what it is that people in Virginia really want.

A Virginia Environmental Endowment poll, which sampled probable voters across that state in 1995, is instructive.

The poll found that 73 percent of 1,014 people sampled indeed wanted government to be less intrusive in their lives -- the sort of thing that the Allens and Dunlops and Newt Gingriches have mistaken as a mandate to trample on environmental regulations.

But read on. Did those same Virginians mean they wanted less regulation of the environment? Most said no, by 55-41 percent.

(This closely parallels sentiments in a recent Maryland poll of businesses, which said "regulation" overall was a problem, but did not, in more detailed questions, identify environmental regulation as a large part of that.)

And as the questions got even more detailed in the Virginia poll, notice what happened:

Did voters want less regulation of toxics? No, by 76-17 percent.

Less regulation of water pollution? No, by 71-26 percent. Of wetlands and air pollution? No, and no -- by 63-24 percent and 61-35 percent.

And when those who did favor less regulation of the environment were asked by the pollsters how it should be done, almost two-thirds backed reforms over cutbacks in enforcement and standards -- 63-32 percent.

What these people favored overwhelmingly was fundamentally what Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening will try to achieve next year with his initiatives to rein in sprawl and guide growth:

"Reform regulations by planning for development and economic growth in such a way that it doesn't endanger the environment" got Virginians' endorsement by 88-7 percent as the preferred way to reduce regulation.

Am I wrong to say Allen and Dunlop are ignorant in their approach to environmental protection?

I hope not, because the best alternative explanation I can think of for the way they have run things is this:

Bought and paid for.

Pub Date: 12/20/96

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad