Buhl out of a job

Guns will replace controversial appointee

Friday, Jan. 27, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Lynn Buhl, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and one of the most embattled members of the Ehrlich administration, is leaving at the end of the month to ‘‘pursue other opportunities.”

The Senate — after one of the first and most divisive battles between Democrats and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) — rejected Buhl’s nomination as secretary of environment in 2003. After that, Buhl worked in the Department of Planning, and for the past year and a half, she was deputy secretary of DNR.

DNR Secretary C. Ronald Franks sent an e-mail Monday informing staff of Buhl’s departure. DNR Assistant Secretary Ronald A. Guns, a former delegate from the Eastern Shore, will be promoted to deputy secretary, Franks wrote.

‘‘Given his experience working within our agency and as former chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, I know Ron will continue to serve us well in his new role, as we move forward in implementing our bay restoration and land preservation priorities,” Franks wrote.

Environmentalists were quick to criticize the Guns promotion. Guns, a Democrat, was a notoriously strong rival of Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and battled with environmental groups on an array of issues when he was in the legislature.

‘‘It’s fair to say that [Guns] and I don’t usually agree on issues of protecting the Chesapeake Bay, preserving open space, and protecting the environment,” said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, the Senate’s point man on environmental issues.

Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda led the charge in defeating Buhl’s nomination.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of the environmental group 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said when Guns headed the Environmental Matters Committee. ‘‘it was dubbed the ‘the environment doesn’t matter’ committee.”

‘‘The people of Maryland should be concerned,” Perkins said.

Paul E. Schurick, Ehrlich’s communications director, would not say where Buhl was going or why she left. The administration does not comment on personnel matters, he said, but he did counter the complaints from environmental groups.

‘‘Ron Guns spent a successful career in the Maryland General Assembly overseeing environmental policy under three different governors,” Schurick said. ‘‘It’s ludicrous to dismiss him.”

Frank Dawson will assume watershed services and resource assessment programs at DNR until a new assistant secretary is named, Franks wrote.