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Secretary’s Message: August 2018

A Bright Future for Conservation

Photo of Secretary Mark Belton

Secretary Mark Belton addresses Conservation Jobs Corps graduates at North Point State Park.

For many Marylanders, August means last-minute vacations, season-ending camps, and – of course – the dreaded yet wonderful back-to-school preparations.

At the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, class has been in session all summer long for our next generation of environmental advocates and stewards.

Three recent ceremonies capped off a season of hard work for hundreds of young people in three of our premier conservation programs – the Conservation Jobs Corp, Maryland Conservation Corps and Natural Resources Careers Camp.

The Conservation Jobs Corps graduated 410 members – our largest class to date! Now in its 11th year, the five-week program employs students ages 14 to 17 for a variety of conservation and environmental projects across the state. This summer, teams constructed more than 100 bat and bird boxes, planted nine pollinator gardens, replaced the boardwalk at Helen Avalynne Tawes Garden, and removed more than 6 tons of debris and stone to build and maintain trails for the Maryland Park Service.

For many of these young people, it was their first time engaging in outdoor activities like camping, kayaking and observing wildlife. This exposure can spark a lifelong interest in outdoor conservation and recreation, part of our overall mission to introduce more Marylanders to their natural environment. The relationships built this summer – with friends, co-workers, mentors, communities and the environment – are sure to last a lifetime.

We also graduated 32 individuals from the Maryland Conservation Corps, a 10-month AmeriCorps program for young adults aged 17 to 25, who learn job training and skills while serving Maryland’s conservation needs. This year’s class provided more than 1,700 hours of service, planting native bay grasses, shrubs and trees, and also treating hundreds of trees in for invasive insects and pests. Members also received more than 100 hours of training in disciplines like basic water rescue, emergency medical response, environmental education and interpretation, small craft safety and wildland firefighting.

Photo of Natural Resources Careers Camp campers.

Natural Resources Careers Camp

Presented by the Maryland Association of Forest Conservancy District Board and Allegany College of Maryland, in partnership with the Maryland Forestry Foundation and Maryland Forest Service, the weeklong Natural Resources Careers Camp hosted 42 high school students at the Hickory Environmental Education Center in Garrett County. Students were provided hands-on classroom and field training while they explored career opportunities in ecology, fisheries, forestry, and natural resources, watershed and wildlife management. The camp was so popular there was even a waitlist!

And finally, I want to thank the 15 interns that joined the department this summer, working in a variety of responsibilities and roles. Many of these college-aged students (watch AccessDNR) are already pursuing careers in environmental science or natural resources, and we hope working with our seasoned experts and professionals give them an advantage when they choose to join the workforce.

We are always in need dedicated and passionate people and volunteers willing and able to assist us in our shared mission to conserve, restore and protect our natural resources. After seeing these enthusiastic young people in action over the last few weeks, I am – once again – encouraged and inspired, and optimistic for the future!