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Outside Perspective

Photo of Jeannie Haddaway-RiccioAs we continue to recover from the pandemic, I am more enthused than ever to welcome back spring. And the first full month of spring is dedicated to one of our most important resources: trees.

This is highlighted by Maryland Arbor Day on April 7 and National Arbor Day on April 30 but we are so enthusiastic about trees at DNR that we kick off Arbor Day in February each year. Our annual Arbor Day Poster Contest invites Maryland youth to submit artwork around a forestry theme. This year’s theme was “Trees Are Terrific… and Forest Products Are, Too!” — encouraging youth and adults to reflect on the importance of Maryland forests for their variety of benefits. Forests comprise Maryland’s largest category of land cover, and they are critical to our environmental and economic health. The forest products industry is an important part of Maryland’s economy and a valued partner in renewable and sustainable management of our natural resources.

We were honored to welcome a very talented artist and art educator again this year. First Lady Yumi Hogan offered welcoming remarks at our virtual event and congratulated the winners. In this edition of our magazine, we share with you those winning entries. Luke Etter of Hampstead, Maryland, in Carroll County was awarded First Place, and his school will receive 15 trees for planting. Second Place, with a prize of 10 trees, was awarded to Kaitlyn Johnson of Myersville, Maryland, in Frederick County. Third Place honors went to Henry Crawford of Flintstone, Maryland, in Allegany County. His school will receive five trees. Congratulations to all the winners and their schools! These plantings represent just a portion of the more than 2 million seedlings that the Maryland Forest Service plants each year.

Speaking of the forestry industry, one of my fondest childhood memories was accompanying my father, who was a boat builder, to local lumber yards to select wood for the boats. That makes it very easy to relate to the personal story of DNR Forest Industry Development Specialist Tom Bradshaw which is also featured in this edition of our magazine. Through his family history we explore how the industry provided materials for boat building that in turn drove Maryland’s seafood and maritime industries since the earliest days of our state, a symbiotic relationship that continues today. It also harkens to our efforts today, in the face of changing times, to develop new markets that will keep the industry vibrant.

On the subject of fishing, our department’s Fishing and Boating Services team provided funding to purchase and deploy 150 concrete reef balls to enhance fish habitat in freshwater impoundments. Concrete reef balls for habitat have been used for many years in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. This is the latest innovative strategy to increase physical habitat in public impoundments where needed as part of sound management.

We are also using innovative approaches to fighting the invasive blue catfish. Last fall, scientists began using an electronic tagging system to track and tag blue catfish throughout the Patuxent River watershed. This tracking technology will give biologists the fullest view yet of this species’ lifestyle, habitat, and migration patterns to help both recreational and commercial anglers target this species and reduce their numbers.

As the weather warms and more anglers hit the water, we are counting on our fishing community to help combat this invasive threat in our waters.

Spring weather also means boating season in Maryland — and I am among those eager to get out on the water. Safe Boating Month, which is in May, is an important reminder to follow safe boating practices.

Finally, I am proud to help celebrate DNR employees who exemplify excellent customer service. These dedicated staff members have been recognized by our customers and constituents as well as their coworkers as “unsung heroes” who help us fulfill our mission in unique ways. This includes Bhaskaran “Bhaskar” Subramanian, Chief of DNR’s Shoreline Conservation Service who has been working diligently with the Friends of the Honga River to protect their tidewater community from extreme weather events, and Shakira Johnson, Administrative Officer with the Natural Resources Police, who has been called “the glue that holds the Supply Services Unit together” by her colleagues. We will highlight these and more of our valued behind-the-scenes team members in this and future editions of this magazine.

My appreciation goes to all our staff for their service to our environment and our citizens, and to all of you who continue supporting our mission and helping plant the seed of stewardship in Maryland.

Please enjoy this edition of our magazine and here’s to a happy and healthy spring!

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio

Article appears in Vol. 24, No. 2 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, spring 2021.