As a native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, stewardship of our natural resources has always been of personal importance to me. That is why it is such an honor and privilege to address you as Maryland’s 11th secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. I am very grateful for Governor Hogan’s confidence in me and I am very appreciative of the warm welcome I have received from stakeholders across the state.
As you page through this month’s magazine, you will experience the breadth and depth of the mission of our department. From forest management and monitoring our waterways to protecting iconic flora and fauna, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has a 50-year track record of important conservation achievements.
And as a Marylander who enjoys our tremendous and diverse outdoor recreational opportunities – including boating, fishing, hiking and hunting – I want to ensure that we continue expanding opportunities for all Marylanders to experience the outdoors.
That is why I am pleased to help roll out the important work of the Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic (MORE) Commission, which was established in 2017 by an Executive Order issued by Governor Larry Hogan.
Originally the brainchild of Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, the 19-member MORE Commission is co-chaired by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Department of Commerce, and is charged with strengthening Maryland’s outdoor recreation and heritage tourism economy.
Having served as Governor Hogan’s deputy chief of staff at the time of inception, I’ve had the unique opportunity to shepherd this effort from its earliest inception to this milestone moment, when we review the work this commission has done and developing recommendations and an action plan.
The goals are to improve the business climate—and create and retain jobs—for Maryland’s outdoor recreation industry; promote Maryland’s brand as a premier destination for outdoor recreation and heritage tourism; develop world-class outdoor and heritage tourism experiences; and foster stewardship of Maryland’s natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources.
During 2018, the commission met a half-dozen times including meetings and listening sessions in every region of Maryland. Each of these meetings have involved tours, presentations and panels of local experts spanning the fields of tourism, parks management, small business, health, recreation, history and conservation.
Key findings from those listening sessions found some important needs going forward, including:
• More and better public-private partnerships to provide services and expand upon recreational opportunities on public recreational lands.
• Better assistance to small businesses focused on outdoor recreation, including financing assistance and workforce development
• Trails and connections between recreational areas and communities to increase economic development and enhances the quality of life for Maryland’s citizens.
• New strategies to engage, recruit and retain young people and diverse audiences to ensure a lifetime of outdoor recreation and environmental literacy
• Increased and equitable water access
• Promotion of year-round, off-peak recreational opportunities and synergies with heritage tourism, and marketing these opportunities to a wider audience.
I credit the diligence of my predecessor, former Secretary Mark Belton, for getting us to this point. As I take the reins of this department, I will work closely with my commission co-chair, Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz, to complete this report and begin taking action on it.
Through the rest of 2019, the MORE Commission will primarily be working in subcommittees—along with outside subject matter experts —and developing detailed recommendations. We will also hold additional regional listening sessions to assure that every voice from every region is heard, including yours!
The commission intends to draft a final report by the fall, and will solicit public comment and input before final submission to the governor in December.
I look forward to working with all of you!
Article appears in Vol. 22, No. 2 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, spring 2019.