Governor O'Malley Signs Natural Resources Bills
Annapolis, MD (May 4, 2010) - Governor Martin O’Malley today signed
into law several pieces of new legislation to support Maryland’s natural
resources. Youth from the Maryland Civic Justice Corps, a summer jobs program
that teaches at risk youth career skills and community service through
restoration projects, joined Governor O’Malley for the singing of a trio of
related bills (SB 311, HB 943 and HB 647).
“As we work to protect and restore our natural resources, we must also work to help today’s young people grow to be responsible adult stewards,” said Governor O’Malley, referencing SB 311, HB 943 and HB 647. “Through the legislation we are signing today, we do both. We protect our forests, our fisheries and our waterways, while expanding job opportunities for at-risk youth to learn conservation skill and connect with our natural world.”
Senate Bill 311, introduced by Senate President Mike Miller, establishes a Chesapeake Conservation Corps Board within the Chesapeake Bay Trust to provide young adults with service opportunities and promote, preserve, protect and conserve the environment. The program builds upon Maryland’s existing, nationally recognized, youth environmental service programs – the Civic Justice Corps and the Maryland Conservation Corps -- by providing a funding source to expand these and similar programs that place young adults at non-profits, schools, or with local governments to complete environmental and energy education and conservation projects.
Two measures signed into law by Governor O’Malley today aim to protect forests and wooded natural areas from development. Senate Bill 69 will allow Maryland to leverage federal funds to provide greater incentives for landowners to establish forests or improve the health and existing productivity of existing forests through the Woodlands Incentive Program. House Bill 1352, sponsored by Delegate Dana Stein, discourages development of forestlands located outside of priority funding areas.
“When it comes to clean air and water, trees and forests are our most strategically important resources,” said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin. “They do a lot of the hard work for us, and protecting them is a priority.”
Governor O’Malley also signed a series of bills designed to improve enforcement of our existing natural resource and public safety laws.
House Bill 98 closes loopholes in the law so that poachers and others who violate state or federal commercial fisheries law may not avoid license suspension penalty by working on another tidal fish license.
House Bill 356, sponsored by Delegate Rudy Cane, will help protect landowners and the environment from the negative impacts of illegal timber harvest activities. The legislation updates the 60 year-old law requiring licensure of forest products businesses by authorizing DNR to suspend or revoke a forest products operator’s license if the operator fails to comply with existing laws and regulations pertaining to timber harvesting, environmental protections, or appropriate business practices.
House Bill 527, sponsored by Delegate Virginia Clagett, will help ensure the removal of abandoned or derelict vessels occurs in a timelier manner.
Senate Bill 475, sponsored by Senator Norman Stone, will help improve boating safety in Maryland. The legislation updates the laws regulating vessel operation to mirror the existing statutes allowing law enforcement officers to compel impairment testing for vehicle accidents where the driver is operating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
“Sadly, eight individuals lost their lives on Maryland waters last year in boating related accidents where alcohol was a contributing factor,” said Natural Resources Police Col. George Johnson. “For the safety of our children and boaters, our Natural Resources Police officers need the ability to use every available modern tool to discourage reckless and dangerous activity on Maryland’s waters and investigate tragic accidents. We are very thankful for Senator Stone’s leadership in sponsoring this important legislation, as well as the support from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Vallario and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh.”
The Governor also signed several fisheries related bills that would improve fisheries management, and eliminate the need for saltwater anglers to register with the federal government.
“The new license bill is a critical step forward in effective fisheries management by bringing Maryland into compliance with NOAA’s effort to better gauge and account for the recreational fishing community’s impact and contributions. The bill also preserves a previous license fee increase, supported by recreational fishing groups, which has allowed DNR to expand efforts to protect, conserve, and enhance fishing opportunities in Maryland. We applaud the support of the Governor and our legislators in acting positively on this and other important fishing-related legislation,” said Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association Executive Director Dave Smith.
Senate Bill 29, sponsored by Senator John Astle, was drafted upon a recommendation from the Task Force on Fisheries Management to authorize DNR to develop fishery management plans for species in need. The legislation will help prevent overfishing in Maryland and encourage more sustainable fisheries management strategies. Other state agencies and commissions managing fisheries in the mid-Atlantic region -- including Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina -- already hold this authority.
House Bill 1345 adjusts Maryland’s saltwater fishing licenses to comply with the new National Saltwater Angler Registry. In summary, the legislation:
• creates a single recreational fishing license for tidal waters of the State, which requires coastal anglers to purchase a license;
• increases the length of short term licenses from 5 to 7 days;
• establishes a free registration for persons fishing aboard a pleasure boat, waterfront property owners and their immediate family fishing from their property and individuals fishing in a free fishing area; and
• establishes a commercial pier fishing license.
Several legislative measures that would increase waterfowl and deer hunting opportunities in Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Talbot, and St. Mary’s Counties were also signed by Governor O’Malley today (HB 1472, HB 686, and SB 978). In addition, the Governor signed Senate Bill 847 into law so that resident and visiting disabled veterans may hunt in Maryland without purchasing a hunting license.
|May 4, 2010||
Contact: Josh Davidsburg
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009, is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 467,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries, and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic, and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov