The Dernogalizer

March 23, 2010

Column on the Environmentally Destructive… University of Maryland Co-Sponsored…Tech Center in Charles County

Believe it or not, I wasn’t angry or bitter when I wrote this column in the Diamondback.

In Charles County, there’s a proposed development called Indian Head Science and Technology Park. This development will span 277 acres, all on forested land, including a chunk of land in Chapman State Park, which surrounds Mattawoman Creek. Mattawoman Creek is one of the most pristine, healthy streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s also one of the premier fish nurseries on the East Coast. As part of the development, there are at least five planned road crossings of the stream valley, which the Army Corps of Engineers says is crucial to protect for the sake of the Mattawoman.

A big part of this industrial park development will be host to the Energetics Technology Center. The point of the center will be the research and development of explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics. A look at the center’s about page says it’s a spin-off of a similar center at this university. Scroll a little further down, and you’ll find this center is a collaboration of many of the same partners as the last one, including this university right smack at the top. The Tech Center’s brochure lists the university as a key partner in making this whole entity work.

We all come here to learn, but I don’t just mean in classes. We learn outside the classroom from the student groups we join, the friends we win and lose and most importantly from the mistakes we make. What about our university administration? What about university President Dan Mote, departing from his position in August after leading the university for more than a decade?

On the surface, Mote’s environmental record is admirable. He signed the President’s Climate Commitment and set in motion an action plan to reduce emissions, make buildings more energy efficient and increase the usage of renewable energy. But I think it’s all showmanship to bolster our image.

When students and faculty did a little digging, they found last year that the university was planning to relocate facilities from East Campus onto a 22.4-acre forested area known as the Wooded Hillock. We know how that ended: Despite the administration’s insistence that it was an appropriate sacrifice to cut down part of a forest because East Campus was greener than leprechauns with envy, the activists won the day.

In February, I listened to university alumnus Michael Martin talk about how when he was a student here 10 years ago, he was part of a fight to prevent the university from relocating greenhouses to wetlands by what is now Comcast Center. It was a story that shockingly paralleled the Wooded Hillock controversy, with the administration denying that the wetlands were environmentally sensitive, dragging its feet and eventually balking under the pressure.

It made me wonder when they decided to relocate facilities from East Campus, whether they remembered what had happened before. Didn’t they learn their lesson? It made me doubt the sincerity of the administration when they talk about the importance of environmental stewardship.

Dig a little beneath the surface once more, and you’ll find another pending local environmental catastrophe with our fingerprints all over the scene of the crime. If Mote was serious about sustainability, we’d never be in this partnership.

We all come here to learn. Mote came. He saw. He learned nothing.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

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