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Secretary’s Message – December 2023

Building a team for Maryland’s future

Photo of several people in a park

Members of the Secretary’s staff and DNR senior leadership visiting Patapsco Valley State Park, photo by Anthony Burrows, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

As I conclude my first year at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, I am grateful for the opportunities that lie ahead for developing a sustainable future. I appreciate Governor Wes Moore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and the entire administration for their support of our mission: To follow the science to protect and enhance our environment so we can improve the quality of life for all Marylanders. 

When I started at the agency in January, my first priority was to get to know DNR’s professional staff whose research drives our knowledge and whose efforts put those solutions into action. During the past year, I’ve been continually impressed with their dedication to the protection and restoration of Maryland’s natural resources.

Guiding them at DNR is a senior leadership team that provides management, counsel, and wisdom built up from their long experience at DNR and elsewhere in the public and private sector. Several of our unit directors are historic choices who will fulfill our administration’s goals for diversity and equity. They also bring new voices and important perspectives to our work. 

Among the DNR leadership team are three leaders who are historic firsts in their roles.

The new Maryland Park Service Director Angela Crenshaw is the first Black woman to lead the state’s park system. She began her tenure at the agency in 2008, later became a Park Ranger, and was consistently promoted during her time at several different state parks. She was the lead ranger on the department’s Interpreting Difficult Histories Team where she sifted through the history and narratives that we present at our parks to ensure accuracy. I’m excited to see how her leadership will shape the Park Service during the next several years.

Elsewhere in the agency, Karina Stonesifer became the first woman to lead DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service earlier this year, and in November, Ann Hairston-Strang was selected as the first woman to lead the Maryland Forest Service. Both of these women have spent their career navigating male-dominated fields and have shown exemplary leadership throughout their tenure at DNR. I couldn’t be more proud to serve on the same team as them and the other staff at DNR.

The accomplishments we’ve achieved at DNR so far this year, such as taking leadership roles of the interstate Chesapeake Bay cleanup, highlighting our research and science, carefully managing fishing and hunting issues, and improving employee morale, were only possible because of the leaders and staff that make up the heart–and brains–of this agency.

We look forward to a new year of serving the people of Maryland and protecting our precious resources for this and future generations.

Josh Kurtz is Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.