At Your Service: Natural Resources Professionals Are Standing By
A key function of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is providing the best information possible to the public we serve. To that end, the department provides a customer service email, firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as dedicated phone lines, email newsletter subscription services, and social media platforms through which the public can contact the department. Questions or concerns coming into the department are funneled to experts in all of the different department divisions. For example, a question concerning hunting seasons would be forwarded to the Wildlife and Heritage Service, and a question concerning a waterman’s permit would be answered by a licensing and permitting expert in Fishing and Boating Services.
Most divisions also have dedicated toll-free phone lines that the public can call to have their questions or concerns addressed by a knowledgeable person who will quickly find and provide information. Social media platforms are yet another way the public can interact with the various divisions. Our social media content managers strive to post the most accurate information as quickly as possible and respond to private messages.
The department’s service representatives work hard to provide accurate information. This sometimes requires reaching out to other team members, especially when it involves legal, technical, or scientific expertise. Some of the questions that are received from the public call for answers that are complicated or nuanced, but service representatives strive to give answers in clear and concise terms.
The Fishing and Boating Services’ customer service team receives a wide variety of inquiries. For example, we may get questions from someone who has just moved to the state, or perhaps from a parent who wishes to get their children involved in fishing and needs a little guidance. Curious developing naturalists may request identification of fish species and aquatic organisms.
Clarification of fishing and crabbing regulations are common, with these topics shifting seasonally. Commercial watermen may need help at times with permits or catch reporting and dedicated individuals are ready to offer assistance. In the spring, there are many questions about trout stocking, while summertime questions often center on crabbing and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay or the many lakes and reservoirs in Maryland. The monthly list of subjects typically covers a wide variety of topics, with the highest volume of inquiries occurring during the spring and summer months. Some queries even provide a mystery or us to solve, and the occasional chuckle. One customer sent in an inquiry about possible rodents browsing in their flower bed and described burrows along a yard side ditch. The inquiry included a curious picture of two items caught in a mouse trap the customer had set. Upon inspection, the items proved to be the two claws of a burrowing crayfish, which are common in the wetter areas of Maryland. (Ever since, I have pictured a crayfish wandering around minus its claws).
In the course of any given year, DNR answers more than 4,000 inquiries from the public. These numbers do not include the many inquiries received by staff in regional offices throughout the state on a daily basis.
Staff who provide customer service to the public often receive thanks from grateful inquirers, which of course makes it all the more satisfying to provide expedient and accurate information. But we’re not “fishing” for compliments here—assisting Marylanders is all in a day’s work.
Keith Lockwood is a fisheries biologist for the department’s Fishing and Boating Services, and compiles the department’s Maryland Fishing Report. Article appears in Vol. 24, No. 2 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, spring 2021.pubic