The Maryland Horse Council is grateful to Senators David Brinkley and Norman Stone, members of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review of the Maryland General Assembly, for their prompt and positive response to MHC’s plea that they request a hearing on “emergency” regulations proposed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to implement hunting in 4 western counties. By law, a hearing must be scheduled if a member of the Committee requests it. We await the scheduling of the hearing. As our letter to the Committee demonstrates, DNR’s actions in its attempt to promulgate new regulations without giving Marylanders notice of their content and an opportunity to comment on them is an affront to due process and a violation of established law.
The Equiery likewise applauds the Maryland Horse Council for alerting the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review (AELR) and for alerting Senator Brinkley (as well as other members of the committee) to this potential circumvention of due process. It is too easy in today’s society to become complacent about the government and about the regulatory process. Too easy to shrug one’s shoulders and say, “Well, that’s just the way they do things.” To paraphrase Edmund Burke, who looked with jaundiced eye upon bureaucracy, tyranny will prevail when good people stand by and do nothing.
In mid-June of this year, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife & Heritage Services (DNR WHS) released the 2014-2015 Guide to Hunting and Trapping in Maryland with regulations included that had not yet been approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review (AELR), as is required by law.
DNR WHS eventually did submit these regulations to the AELR, but not until July 29, more than a full month after releasing the guide, and more than two months after the passage of Maryland’s law enabling, but not mandating, expanded hunting in Maryland’s four western counties.
There was plenty of time for the regulation request to be submitted via the regular process. DNR has already argued that there was not enough time to submit the request via the regular process, because of the new law signed by Governor O’Malley in May increasing the opportunities for expanded hunting in Western Maryland on private and public land. However, DNR submitted many other requests for updated regulations based on laws signed by the governor in May via the standard process prior to submitting this particularly controversial regulation as an emergency–and doing so more or less in secret.
Suffice it to say that, by submitting the request as an emergency, it is clear that bureaucrats at DNR were hoping the maneuver would stay off the radar of the general public, bypassing the public’s legal right to comment.
But adding a few days of hunting in no way, either legally or ethically, constitutes a regulatory “emergency,” which is intended to cope with public health crises and other true public emergencies. It is clear that bureaucrats at DNR were using the emergency process as a cynical way to bypass public comment.
Consequently, no one had an opportunity to comment. Bow hunters were denied their right to comment (and bow hunters are conspicuously excluded from the regulation’s expansion of Sunday hunting, although they were included in the new law). Perhaps bow hunters would like an opportunity to comment on the proposed regs. Other users of public land were excluded from commenting, including–but not limited to–hikers, bird watchers, and equestrians. (For the record,The Equiery is supportive of game hunting, including the hunting of deer with firearms, and is supportive of certain expanded opportunities for deer hunting with firearms. The Equiery also believes in the shared use of public lands; however, we believe that not all uses are simultaneously compatible, so in certain situations, “shared use” means allocating different days – or different periods within certain days – for different pursuits.)
There are more arcane details that support the necessity of the request by Senator Brinkley for a hearing, details that could possibly be used to distract interested parties from the core issue. However, we trust that Senator Brinkley will not allow these red herrings to distract him from ensuring that the O’Malley administration follows due process as required by law.