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Outside Perspective

Photo of Jeannie Haddaway-RiccioAs we conclude the 50th anniversary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, we head into commemorating more important milestones. This April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Throughout this edition of The Natural Resource, we highlight the important work our staff, volunteers, and partners are doing on behalf of our mission to conserve our land, water, fish, and wildlife.

Additionally, Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed 2020 the Year of the Woman in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. That makes 2020 a great time to learn more about the contributions of Maryland women in the field of natural resources and Chesapeake Bay conservation.

When you visit Point Lookout State Park for example, you will learn about some of the most important protectors of the Chesapeake Bay—lighthouse keepers—who were often women. Three women tended the lighthouse there for all but six of its first 40 years of operation. Meanwhile, women keepers at Elk Neck State Park’s Turkey Point lighthouse were responsible for 86 of its 114 years in service.

When you visit the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Dorchester County, you will see the efforts of DNR and the National Park Service to preserve the history and the contributions of Harriet Tubman. One of the most important figures for abolitionist causes, she was also a suffragette. In our 17-acre park, you can experience a landscape that looks much the same today as it did in Harriet’s day.

Today, women’s leadership as stewards continues to grow. DNR’s first female secretary, Dr. Sarah Taylor Rodgers, served from 1999 to 2001. In 2008, our current Maryland Park Service Superintendent Nita Settina became the first woman to lead our state park system since its founding in 1906. In fact, four of the seven senior leaders of the Park Service are women as are 10 of our 21 park managers.

In this edition, you can also read about Anne Gilbert, our statewide coordinator of the Forest Service’s Tree-Mendous Maryland program. Her work has assisted more than 3,000 towns and communities, parks, and schools in planting trees and shrubs which helps keep our communities beautiful, healthy and vibrant.

Throughout this Year of the Woman, I look forward to sharing more stories like these and celebrating the many contributions women have made in our state’s history—all while playing my own role, as a woman dedicated to protecting and conserving our natural resources.

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio

Article appears in Vol. 23, No. 1 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, spring 2020.