A Message from the Secretary

September 2016

Secretary Mark BeltonAs the summer winds down, it’s nice to take some time and look back at some of our successes this season, even as we enjoyed the long sun-lit days, warm weather and leisure activities.

I had the distinct honor of speaking before the graduates of the Maryland Conservation Job Corps and Maryland Conservation Corps. These programs connect young people with the great outdoors while educating them on the importance of conservation, team-building and practical skills and management. Their service is invaluable to our network of 72 parks across the state.

Additionally, I was proud to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Hart-Miller Island State Park. This park – accessible only by boat – has seen record attendance this summer. In fact, the Maryland Park Service is on pace to exceed lastyear’s attendance record!

We commemorated the National Park Service’s Centennial by participating in the “Every Kid in a Park” program, wherefourth-graders and their families receive free admission into state parks. We’re happy to report this program, part of Governor Larry Hogan’s fee elimination and reduction initiative, helped scores of students connect with nature. The department also lowered fees for veterans and other stakeholders.

Children also led the way setting some Maryland fishing records, with 10-year-old Ryan Timmons of Berlin breaking the Atlantic white perch record and 9-year-old Emma Zajdel of Ocean City reeling in a record-setting cobia. Congratulationskids!

Speaking of fishing, the department – in conjunction with the Governor ’s Office of Community Initiatives – broadened its engagement this summer by hosting several Hispanic outreach events throughout the state, providing information on fishing regulations and water safety.

Secretary Mark Belton on patrol boatOut on the Chesapeake Bay, where we have seen improving water conditions and clarity, be it submerged aquatic vegetation or blue crabs, it’s been a far safer season compared with last, with about half as many fatalities (even though one is too many). One of our Natural Resources Police officers, Corporal Hugh Brohawn, was named Boating Officer of the Year for the third time, due in part to his leadership of the agency’s “Operating While Impaired” enforcement efforts.

Staff has responded to the devastating floods in and around Ellicott City, where they continue to remove debris from the Patapsco River and are working to restore Patapsco Valley State Park as quickly as possible.

And lastly, the department has mobilized its third firefighting crew to fight wildfires in the western United States. Just this week, we sent a 20-person crew to Idaho and Utah to combat the Peterson Hollow Fire. We can’t wait to welcome them back safe and sound.

It has been a busy and productive summer for the department and its staff. While it is sad to see summer fade-out, we look forward to celebrating all the beauty and grace of the great outdoors has to offer this autumn. From hiking to hunting, the fall season has something for everyone.

DNR Secretary Belton's Signature

Mark Belton

Natural Resources Secretary