The start of January marked the convening of the 441st session of the Maryland General Assembly and with that, the annual Chesapeake Bay Trust Legislative Reception. This year’s event was a special celebration honoring the 10th anniversary of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program.
The evening brought together the 10th cohort of Chesapeake Conservation Corps members, Corps alumni, Maryland State Delegates and Senators, grant program partners, supporters, and friends to network, celebrate, and acknowledge the importance of the work both the Trust and the Corps do.
Guests were reminded by Senate President Bill Ferguson that “The Bay is not political. The Bay is the most important thing that we have in the state of Maryland. It is the commerce hub and is where we have the birth of our future experiences.”
The Trust featured its newly released annual report for FY 2019 highlighting the over $11 million granted out to organizations throughout the watershed to fund almost 400 projects collaboratively supporting natural resource projects through education, restoration, community engagement, science and innovation, and capacity building. Board of Trustee member, Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo spoke about the Trust’s reputation for transparency and operational excellence noting “The Chesapeake Bay tag is the … piece that allows the Trust to leverage so much more. If you think about when you go to the MVA and pay that little extra money for that Bay tag and you encourage all of your friends and you encourage all of your family members to get that bay tag. That equates to about $3.5 million to the Trust. But the great thing about that is that the $3.5 million because the Trust is run so well, is leveraged to more like $12 million dollars. Which is absolutely incredible when it comes to the amount of work that needs to be done to restore the Bay.”
And speaker Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio reminisced about her involvement in protecting the Trust as a member of the Maryland General Assembly. “Before I was Secretary of Department of Natural Resources (DNR), I served in the Maryland House of Delegates and at that time I learned that the Bay plate program was a pilot program that was going to expire. Senator Astle and I got together and made a joint decision to co-sponsor legislation to make it a permanent program. And I’m still really proud of the fact that we were able to accomplish that and have the support of the entire Maryland General Assembly to make that happen because the Chesapeake Bay Trust is so important. At DNR, we firmly believe that cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay takes participation from a variety of stakeholders and it takes every citizen in Maryland to be a part of the process. And I think that is really one of the great and unique things about Chesapeake Bay Trust is that your programs and your grants are getting projects done on the ground in our local communities and really engaging citizens in the process. And we’re really proud to partner with the organization.”
One way the Trust continues to engage is through the operation of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program (CCC). Each year, the CCC places young adults (ages 18-25) with nonprofit or government agencies to work full-time in the environmental field for a one-year term of paid service in the Chesapeake Bay region. The Corps Members receive hands-on green job and leadership experience through on-the-ground experience leading and assisting with projects and programs for their host sites, extensive training hosted by the Trust and other service-learning opportunities including grant writing and project management.
Since its inception, the program has partnered with over 117 host sites and graduated 265 corps members, many who were in attendance representing the environmental agency they went on to work for after graduation.
The Chesapeake Bay Trust partners with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, BGE, and the National Park Service to run each cohort of, on average, 35 members. Founding advocate, Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller told the crowd “it’s very easy for me to support this program… We want to protect the Chesapeake Bay; we want to protect Maryland… it takes young people like this with some enthusiasm to make things happen.”
National Park Service Superintendent of the Chesapeake Bay Office, Wendy O’Sullivan, added “I stumbled into the National Parks Service through a youth corps program, right out of grad school. So all of you that are here … you are on a path and you are part of a family now of the champions of the Chesapeake of Ambassadors for our environment and the Park Service couldn’t be more proud to add and be part of that leveraging of the bay plate money for the corps program.”
The Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program is open for application! Learn more about the program and how to apply to join the 11th cohort here!