Outdoor recreation has become more welcome than ever as we seek safe activities to do with our friends and family. Recognizing its importance even before the pandemic, Governor Hogan charged Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz and me with co-chairing the Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission (MOREC). Since then, Secretary Schulz and I have been traversing the state and working to implement the recommendations of the commission. Among those recommendations is naming Maryland Outdoor Recreation Ambassadors to help position Maryland as a top destination for world-class outdoor recreation experiences. So far we have recognized 33 ambassadors in four counties and counting.
Several other recommendations of the MORE Commission centered around opportunities for workforce development and job creation in the outdoor recreation industry in Maryland. Three of DNR’s own programs, the Maryland Conservation Corps (MCC), Conservation Jobs Corp (CJC), and Veteran’s Conservation Corps (VCC), are excellent examples of that. Each of these programs provides an opportunity to explore natural resources career paths while gaining on-the-job training and professional certifications.
Last week, I had the honor of speaking to our latest class MCC graduates. These young adults, ages 17 to 25, completed an impressive 1,700 hours of service, planted thousands of trees and native plants, and taught environmental education programs to nearly 8,000 students, youth, and park visitors. We are recruiting now for the next class, taking applications to hire 35 full-time members who will work on seven teams for an 11-month period, beginning in late September 2021.
We also graduated members of our Maryland CJC, a six-week program for youth between the ages of 14 and 18 conducted in partnership with community youth organizations. The CJC is a unique summer program where teams work to conserve and restore Maryland State Parks, discover Maryland’s natural resources, and gain the skills to protect them.
The mission of our VCC program is to empower veterans and engage them in conservation service work on public lands. The VCC’s work in State Parks uses veterans’ unique background, diverse job skills, and service ethic to address pressing conservation needs on our public lands. These full-time, paid positions are year-round and the participants provide invaluable expertise to our team.
Another impressive program is the highly successful Natural Resources Career Camp (NRCC) for high school students interested in forestry and natural resources careers. Conducted each year in Garrett County, the weeklong camp has been going strong since the mid-1970s, sponsored by Maryland’s Forest Conservancy District Boards with input and curriculum provided by several DNR units. While traditional forestry is the main focus, participants also learn about GIS and GPS technology, urban forestry, wildlife, fisheries, and watershed ecology. Signup for next year’s camp will begin this winter.
For youth ages 17 to 19 who are considering a job in law enforcement, DNR offers a cadet program through the Maryland Natural Resources Police. The cadet program is equivalent to a paid internship, allowing the individuals to not only experience firsthand the life of an NRP officer but also to participate in other areas of our department, such as fisheries, state parks, and wildlife. This has proven to be an excellent career path and workforce pipeline. In fact, in the past two years, seven cadets have made the transition to the NRP Police Academy.
I encourage you to check out these programs on our website and share them with youth who may be interested. We are always looking to inspire the next generation of stewards to join our mission!