As we continue to recover from the pandemic, I am more enthused than ever to welcome back spring and get outside. April in particular is a month full of events and opportunities to highlight our state’s amazing natural resources. In fact, it is becoming known as “Earth Month” for its many commemorative days including Maryland Arbor Day on April 7, Earth Day on April 22, and National Arbor Day on April 30.
We are so enthusiastic about trees at DNR that we don’t wait until April though. We kick off our celebrations in February starting with our annual Arbor Day Poster Contest. We were honored to have First Lady Yumi Hogan participate in our virtual event again this year by providing opening remarks and congratulating the three top prize winners whose schools will receive plantings this spring.
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 of the winners and all of the participants – Maryland has some very talented young artists!
Also this month, the Maryland Forest Service will distribute 30,000 tree seedlings to landowners across the state as part of the Backyard Buffer program. This program provides important environmental benefits including supporting tree growth and reducing nutrient pollution and sediment in our waterways.
While these programs and the spring season symbolize renewal in our natural world, it is also a time to be reminded about protecting and preserving our natural world. Spring is wildfire season in Maryland when warm, dry, and windy conditions are most conducive for the spread of fire. On days when this threat is most likely, the department will issue a “red flag” status via social media. Outdoor burning should only be done on low fire danger days. More information on open-air burning is available on the DNR website.
Also, Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed the first Maryland Flood Awareness Month from April 1 to April 30, 2021. Every year, floods in Maryland kill more residents and destroy more property than any other natural hazard.
Maryland Flood Awareness Month will raise awareness about the many flood hazards faced by individuals and communities across the state and provide information on what Marylanders can do to protect themselves, their property and possessions, their finances, and communities. DNR is proud to partner with the governor and our sister agencies in this effort.
These are just a few examples of how we are celebrating April’s many commemorations and fulfilling our department’s natural resources mission all year long. And we welcome your participation as well! Please keep an eye out for upcoming announcements on ways that you can join us in these efforts.
Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.