GRASONVILLE – A group of students joined Gov. Parris N. Glendening Tuesday to release a group of diamondback terrapins into the Chesapeake Bay and call attention to the need for a study of their population.
At a news conference on the windy shores of the Chesapeake Bay, middle school students listened as Glendening pledged funding for a study of the plight of one of Maryland’s state symbols, the diamondback terrapin, despite cuts to his budget.
The study would try to determine how many diamondback terrapins are in the bay. There are concerns the population is declining through loss of habitat and deaths by boat propeller.
“We know that beach nesting is in decline in developed areas near the bay,” said Howard King, of the Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Service. “The first six months of the study will be to determine what the significance of a decline is, if it exists.”
The predatory diamondback terrapin is a state symbol and the mascot for the University of Maryland.
Glendening, wearing a University of Maryland jacket, connected the college basketball team’s recent success with the event.
“We’re proud of two types of terrapins . . . the two-legged kind and the four-legged kind,” he said. The Maryland Terrapin team made it to the NCAA Final Four, losing to Duke, the eventual national champion.
The governor appropriated $100,000 for the study, but it was cut by the General Assembly.
Glendening’s original budget was more than $200 million over spending guidelines and lawmakers had to trim it back. The legislators also felt the Department of Natural Resources could find money within its budget to conduct the study.
“We felt confident that the department would find the money and go ahead with the study,” said Delegate Mary-Dulany James, D-Harford. “I have confidence the study will go on if it’s important to the state, and I think it is.”
In his announcement, the governor said he would instruct the department to find $20,000 to conduct the study.
After his brief speech, the governor and the students placed about 15 turtles, which the students raised at their schools, on the sand and watched them crawl into the chilly bay.
“These kids are here to try to get funding and raise awareness,” said William Moulden, science teacher at Samuel Ogle Middle School in Bowie. “We’re going to try to raise funding on our own . . . and hope the General Assembly will meet us.”
The students from Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties handed the governor four large mayonnaise jars with more than $800 in change and dollar bills. The money will go toward buying tags for released terrapins, said Sarah Taylor-Rogers, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.
Glendening also used the event to discuss land preservation, one of his legislative priorities.
Several times, he pointed toward a string of condominiums across the water, calling them a threat to the terrapin’s habitat.
“If we didn’t have this open space,” he said, referring to the Horsehead Wetlands Center, where the event was staged. “You would have development like we see over there. . . . The biggest threat to the water is what’s happening on the land.”