Enviro groups demand apology from Maryland state senator

SALISBURY, MD, Feb. 25, 2010 -- Environmental groups fighting to keep the Chesapeake Bay and area waterways clean are demanding that Maryland State Senator Richard Colburn make a formal and public apology for characterizing them as 'socialists'...

• Richard Colburn describes them as "Red or Socialist"; U.S. military vets and patriotic Americans affiliated with groups among those outraged by "McCarthy-Like Slur"

SALISBURY, MD, Feb. 25, 2010 -- Local groups fighting to keep the Chesapeake Bay and area waterways clean for the sake of their children and grandchildren today demanded that Maryland State Senator Richard Colburn, R-Cambridge, make a formal and public apology for characterizing local Riverkeepers, and the Waterkeepers Chesapeake group, including Assateague Coastkeeper, as watermelons that are green on the outside and "Red or Socialist on the inside."

Colburn made his inflammatory comments during official business of the Maryland Senate on February 15, 2010. Among the insulted organizations are a number of military veterans who are outraged that their concern about the environment was used by Colburn as the basis for a deliberate smear.

In remarks questioning the role of the Maryland Department of the Environment, enforcing regulations designed to clean up the Bay and ensure clean water quality, Sen. Colburn said, "these river keepers -- environmentalists -- are watermelons: green on the outside and red or socialist on the inside."

"Characterizing any and every opposing group or elected official as unpatriotic or un-American is a political tactic and has no place in any form of reasonable discourse," said Kathy Phillips of Assateague Coastkeeper, a Waterkeeper Alliance member. "We are hard-working Maryland residents, devoting our lives in many cases, to the protection of Maryland waterways from illegal and often toxic pollution. Our groups are comprised of concerned Americans who care very deeply about their country. Waterkeepers has more than a number of veterans working to restore clean waterways in our country. Senator Colburn is engaging here in a McCarthy-like slur and he owes us an apology."

U.S. Marine Corps Colonel (Ret.) Richard Dove, registered Republican, and Neuse Riverkeeper Emeritus (April 1, 1993 through July 4, 2000) said: "This man [State Sen. Colburn] doesn't know what he's talking about. He doesn't know me or any of my colleagues, that's for sure. Having served two tours of duty in Vietnam, I take it personally when someone calls me a Red, a socialist. I understand that Sen. Colburn aligns himself with big agriculture and the commercial farms that keep him in office, but the fact that our goals are not aligned doesn't give him the right to blindly tag our members as socialists, implying somehow that we are un-American."

Jeff Kelble of Shenandoah Riverkeeper said: Jeff Kelble of Shenandoah Riverkeeper said: "My family settled Jamestown, homesteaded the Shenandoah Valley in the 1700's, and fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. In my opinion, protecting our public waterways from pollution for the sake of fellow citizens and the health of our children is among the most patriotic professions. Senator Colburn's comparison is an affront to environmentalists nationwide who are working to keep our country's natural resources safe and protected from industrial pollution. If anything, Riverkeepers are red-blooded Americans, not Red, socialists."

The groups noted that the Waterkeeper® movement was founded by Korean War veterans who were commercial fishermen on the Hudson River.

About Waterkeepers
Waterkeepers® Chesapeake is a coalition of sixteen independent Waterkeeper programs working to protect and restore the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays and their tributaries. Waterkeepers Chesapeake works locally, using grassroots action and advocacy to protect their communities and their waters. They also work regionally to share resources and leverage their individual strengths to expand each Waterkeeper's capacity for on the water, citizen-based enforcement of environmental laws in the Chesapeake region. They patrol thousands of miles of tributaries and shorelines throughout the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays and are at the forefront of enforcement efforts.


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