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Aboveboard: Winter 2019

Mark Belton HeadshotA new year is the ideal time to reflect on the past, take a look around the present and plan for the future. During the winter we can take our cue from nature, as the fresh, brisk air both invigorates us and slows down the pace of life so we can take this pause to reflect.

Begin with a hike in a park, forest or other trail. A great way to start every year is on a First Day Hike, hosted in sites all across Maryland every New Year’s Day. If you can’t make a First Day Hike, any time of year is great to explore these lands.

It’s also a good time for photographers to start looking for inspiration that can lead to entry in our annual photo contest and have their work join the ranks of those stunning photos we highlight from the 2018 contest in the later pages of this magazine.

On the subject of hikes, this edition honors the oldest hiking club in the state, the Mountain Club of Maryland. This group, first organized in 1934, prides itself as one of 31 hiking clubs in America who share responsibility for maintaining sections of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail. Every spring and fall their schedule includes service work trips to maintain and renew trails and, from time to time, the club holds informal workshops to train hike leaders, learn trail maintenance techniques or backpacking skills.

The Mountain Club of Maryland continues to exemplify the stewardship that has helped maintain our natural resources for centuries.

That effort has always included a balance of personal responsibility and necessary regulation, as we glean from a 1967 publication highlighted in this edition. Albert Powell, a longtime fisheries manager with our department’s predecessor organization, made his own mark on history by reporting on Maryland’s fish and game laws, which date back to 1654.

It’s fascinating to see how things have changed—for example that hunting violations and other fees were paid in tobacco. Mostly it reveals that fish and wildlife managers since colonial times have contended with the same issues—balancing enjoyment of Maryland’s bounty with the need to conserve it for future generations.

With that in mind, we’re proud to relay the story of the long-planned demolition of Bloede Dam, now in its final stages. About a century after construction started on the former hydroelectric dam on the Patapsco River, our department joined partners American Rivers, Friends of the Patapsco Valley State Park and ultimately the federal government to remove Bloede Dam and restore more than 65 miles of habitat for river herring, shad and American eel and address years of habitat fragmentation. We hit a major milestone this past year with the breach of the dam, and 2019 will see the project completed.

In another habitat restoration success story, Sassafras Natural Resource Management Area in Kent County has a brand-new home for Northern Bobwhite thanks to a partnership between the Washington College Center for Environment and Society and the Maryland Park Service.

Through a Washington College program called the Natural Lands Project, this past year 83 acres of row crops at the management area were converted to 80 acres of upland meadow, 2 acres of walking trails and an acre of hedgerows. During the winter, quail need cover where they can shelter from predators and harsh weather and this effort will provide that safe haven on the Eastern Shore.

Entering 2019, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is poised to expand more access to the state’s natural wonders. Working with our partners, we’ll have more lands, waters and wildlife to explore, thanks to our many partnerships in conservation and stewardship.

Most of all, we look forward to having you join us on our ongoing mission to preserve, protect, restore and enhance Maryland’s natural resources.

Happy New Year! We’ll see you outside.

Mark Belton

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