EASTON -- Almost 200 hunters -- many from the Baltimore area -- filled a high school cafeteria Wednesday night to press for continued hunting on Eastern Shore land purchased by the state last year.
Although everyone agreed that hunting should not be curtailed on the Chesapeake Forest property, the hunters debated whether the privilege should continue to belong only to the clubs that currently lease the land, or whether it should be shared by the public.
The 58,000-acre Chesapeake Forest land consists of 29,000 acres owned by the state and 29,000 acres purchased by the Conservation Fund that will be donated to the state next year.
Almost all the land owned by the state has been leased for decades by private hunting clubs. Those leases have been extended through the 2000-2001 season while the Department of Natural Resources develops a management plan.
Richard Dolesh, director of DNR Forest, Wildlife and Heritage Service, told the hunters that the goal of the Easton meeting, and two scheduled later this month, is to help the agency develop a plan.
Hunters were concerned about any changes to the leases, and questioned whether the state could maintain the land.
"We're out there picking up the trash, doing the sediment control on the property. I don't think the state has the money to pay employees to do these things," said Scott Adams, a Baltimore resident and member of the Happy Hour Hunting Club, which has held a lease on 475 acres in Dorchester County for 35 years.
Hunters who don't belong to clubs argued that land bought with public money should be opened to everyone.
The next DNR meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Monday at Parkside High School, Salisbury. The final meeting will begin at 7: 30 p.m. April 17 at Annapolis High School.