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Aboveboard: Summer 2018

Mark Belton HeadshotWe’ve always known the lands, waters and wildlife of Maryland to be unique treasures waiting to be discovered. Now more people are realizing that stewardship and conservation of our natural resources can go hand-in-hand with economic benefits.

Recognizing that potential, the Department of Natural Resources works in partnership with the Department of Commerce on efforts to promote nature-based tourism in our state.

One of those efforts is Fish & Hunt Maryland, which produces valuable information about our state’s tremendous outdoor recreational activities aligned with recommendations for scheduling a vacation around them. In this issue, we feature one of their articles on top fishing and hunting opportunities.

This type of initiative is important not just for those who engage in outdoor recreation, but for all state residents, who benefit from the economic impact of anglers, boaters, hikers, hunters and others who make Maryland their destination of choice.

That’s one reason that we’ve made a priority of connecting natural resources with economic opportunity throughout the entire state.

That’s the focus of the Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission, which has begun meeting regularly. Created last fall, this commission will develop innovative strategies to market Maryland’s unique outdoor and heritage recreation brand, as well as recommend initiatives to attract and retain outdoor recreation companies and revenue.

I chair this committee along with Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. With 17 commissioners set to meet through December 2019, we’re tasked to help ensure that our state’s natural heritage is strengthened, bringing about new businesses, increasing visitation and tourism, and ultimately enhancing and preserving our natural resources for this and future generations.

Commissioners met in Washington County in May to discuss public lands needs, recreational tourism, funding, sustainability and local partnerships.

One of the first things the commission determined is we can’t do all this sitting in a room in Annapolis—so we’ve taken our show on the road to see firsthand how outdoor recreation plays a role in our local economies. During this first year of operation, the commission is conducting outreach sessions around the state to engage stakeholders where they live, work and play. From all this information gathering we’ll deliver to the governor a smart, sustainable strategy.

As I confirmed with colleagues and outdoor enthusiasts at a recent National Outdoor Recreation Conference, efforts like this comprise a nationwide movement, and Maryland is at the forefront! Only eight other states have created similar outdoor economic commissions.

This is an exciting opportunity and a great time to be involved in blazing this new trail for our state. If anyone has any questions about the commission, please feel free to contact Kelly Choi at 410-260-8912.

Mark Belton

Outdoor recreation in Maryland currently generates 109,000 direct jobs, $14 billion in consumer spending, $4.4 billion in wages and salaries, and $951 million in state and local tax revenue. Investment in outdoor recreation and nature and heritage tourism supports many outdoor activities, including biking, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, paddling, swimming, viewing wildlife and visiting historic sites.

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