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Secretary’s Message: April 2019

Honor the Past by Investing in the Future

Photo of secretary presenting award to Governor Harry Hughes

This past month marked the passing of a friend and mentor — former Governor Harry Hughes. 

I feel privileged to have known Governor Hughes, a fellow Eastern Shore resident, who was a man of integrity. He was also a leader who greatly influenced the mission of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, especially with regard to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

One of Governor Hughes’ lasting legacies is the Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership in which we still participate today alongside the other states and jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The significance of this program is that it encourages coordination on restoration activities under an important federal framework and ensures that all stakeholders are doing their part. The success of this program is evidenced by key environmental indicators such as record growth of underwater grasses, rebounds of iconic aquatic species, and an increase in overall water quality.

Unfortunately, the future of the Chesapeake Bay Program is threatened, as funding is nearly zeroed out in the president’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Budget. These proposed cuts are potentially devastating to our restoration efforts at a time when we are making good progress. I applaud and support Governor Hogan’s leadership in trying to get that funding restored.

Maryland has certainly led by example. During his time in office, Governor Hogan has invested an historic $5 billion in funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration. This includes fully funding the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, which supports locally driven innovation for watershed protection, and Program Open Space, which helps protect and conserve our lands and our landscapes. To honor the foresight of leaders like Governor Hughes and Governor Hogan, we must assure that environmental restoration efforts at the local, state and federal level continue long into the future.

With that in mind, we recently announced that $24.75 million in funding is available for local governments and nonprofit organizations seeking to restore local waterways and develop the next generation of environmental stewards. To streamline the grant application and management process, the department has created a new “Grants Gateway” that provides a single entry point for prospective grantees and assures access to funding for innovative, local projects.

Governor Hughes once wrote, “Over the years, a lot of people have suggested to me that my leadership in starting the regional effort to restore the Bay and forging and gaining adoption of the Chesapeake Bay initiative … represent my greatest legacy as governor. That may be true, but I didn’t consciously think about that at the time. I just felt strongly that we had to do something about the condition of the Bay.”  As our department — now in its 50th year — continues to fulfill its mission, we are still influenced by those words and by the same strong sense of urgency.

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.