Governor Martin O'Malley today joined U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other senior representatives of the Obama Administration for a public listening session and discussion on land conservation, recreation and reconnecting people to the outdoors. The second such session under President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative was attended by approximately 300 land and recreation managers, outdoor educators, sportsmen, landowners and conservationists from across the 64,000-square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.
"I want to thank President Obama, Secretary Salazar and the other members of the President's "green" cabinet for their leadership on this important issue and for bringing this public discussion to the great State of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region," said Governor O'Malley. "We are also pleased that the President has selected the Chesapeake as one of America's first Treasured Landscapes, and believe Maryland is especially well poised to partner with the Administration and public and private sectors in conserving our great rivers and related landscapes as our legacy for future generations."
President Obama established the America's Great Outdoors Initiative in April to develop a conservation and recreation agenda worthy of the 21st century and to reconnect Americans with our great outdoors.
"Governor O'Malley and the citizens of Maryland have set a high standard in their efforts to conserve and restore the Chesapeake Bay," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "Their strong commitment to the health of the Bay and to opening up more opportunities for outdoor recreation for people who have not in the past had the opportunity to enjoy its wonders embody the spirit and purpose of the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative."
During his remarks Governor O'Malley offered his own recommendations on the process for preserving the Bay region's treasured landscapes, defined as targeted conservation areas -- important ecosystems, working and recreation lands, historic, cultural and scenic resources, water access and trails -- that connect people to rivers or the main stem of the Bay. These included:
* a request for full funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCS) -- the principal means by which land conservation is achieved at the federal level;
* a funding formula that would direct at least 40% of revenues to State and local governments;
* a refocus of state share funding priorities to support, in addition to land acquisition, green projects such as trail development, passive recreation amenities, natural play areas, nature centers, water access, resource restoration on public lands and youth conservation corps;
* the creation of a Federal-State GIS Land Conservation Map for the Bay Region based on concepts used in Maryland's GreenPrint; and
* a bottom-up process for designating conservation lands through a federally-sponsored competition to States in partnership with their local governments and private organizations.
"Wherever possible the federal agencies and their State and local government counterparts need to work together to conserve, manage and operate lands within these targeted areas," said Governor O'Malley, citing the the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park as an example. "On the Harriet Tubman Project, we are jointly acquiring land, jointly developing the project and will jointly manage it. This is the new model for the future -- one that taxpayers deserve and should expect -- a more efficient way of combing resources to get the job done."
Prior to the public break out sessions, during which federal leaders had an opportunity to hear from people across the region, Salazar facilitated a panel discussion on Sharing Examples of Innovative Land Conservation, Recreation & Citizen Stewardship. The panel included: Jacqueline M. Carrera, President & CEO, Parks & People Foundation; Robert Etgen, Executive Director, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy; Chris Miller, President, Piedmont Environmental Council/Treasurer, Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership; and Annette Gantt, President and CEO, Earth Conservation Corps.
"Maryland has a strong and long-standing track record in land conservation, including protecting farms, forests, environmentally sensitive areas, and culturally and historically significant lands," said David O'Neill, president, Chesapeake Conservancy. "Governor O'Malley has built on this tradition and strengthened the state's conservation initiatives with the creation of Maryland Greenprint, a land conservation targeting tool that has quickly become a national model. The President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative will build on the fine work of Maryland the GreenPrint program."
Earlier in the day, federal representatives held a special listening session for about 50 young people, aged 16-20, to receive their in put on the issues.
Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Harris Sherman, Under Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture also participated in the event.
"As we seek to preserve our national treasures and provide meaningful outdoor opportunities and connections for all of our citizens, we must remember that all of these investments and bear heavily on sustainable economies," added the Governor. "Nature based recreation such as hunting, birding, ecotourism, and boating are vital economic drivers for Maryland, and every dollar spent on land preservation has a multiplier effect, supporting jobs, and increased property values."
According to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, tourism accounts for $14.5 billion in sales and more than 146,000 jobs in Maryland. The total impact on the Maryland economy from recreational boating alone is estimated to be about $2.03 billion by the University of Maryland.
Under the leadership of Governor O'Malley, Maryland has maintained land conservation as a top priority, fully funding our premier land conservation program for the 4th year in a row, and made land conservation programs work smarter through the advent GreenPrint, a cutting edge GIS tracking and targeting tool. Governor O'Malley also created the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature, which developed one of the nation's first comprehensive plans for expanding outdoor opportunities for young people and bringing environmental literacy to the classroom. The State Board of Education is currently considering a proposal to require Maryland young people to be environmentally literate in order to graduate from high school. This summer 500 at risk young people will have paid jobs performing conservation work in our State Parks through the Civic Justice Corps -- a program inspired by the Maryland Conservation Corps that has nearly tripled since it was launched three years ago.