Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Maryland that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Establishing a national park to commemorate Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad and building trails and interpretive exhibits for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Martin O'Malley and the state of Maryland, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Maryland and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Maryland highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park
The proposed Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park will trace Tubman's early life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she was born, escaped from slavery, and then returned as one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad to lead others to freedom. In her later years, Tubman also recruited for the Union in the Civil War and was a nurse and a spy.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources seeks to acquire four top-priority historic properties totaling 1,245 square acres for the National Historical Park in Dorchester County. In addition to their connection with the Harriet Tubman story, these properties also fall within the boundary of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
The state has gathered all funding needed to construct the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, which will be jointly managed by the National Park Service and the Maryland State Park Service, should the park be designated by Congress.
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail follows the historic water routes of Smith's travels, based on his map and journals. The trail, which the NPS administers, includes some 3,000 miles in parts of present-day Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. It also connects with 16 national wildlife refuges, 12 national-park areas, and three national trails. It offers opportunities for tourism, environmental and cultural education, conservation, and recreation. The multi-dimensional nature of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail makes it a model for a new system of National Blueways.
As a major partner with NPS, the state of Maryland is developing a comprehensive interpretive and trails plan for 4,600 acres of historic and ecologically significant lands (the recently acquired Maryland Province Properties). This land links the Captain John Smith Trail to the founding of Maryland, integrating cultural history with ecological protection and providing citizens access to unique natural areas. The plan will call for additional investment in land, restoration, historic preservation, recreation, and interpretation of the cultural and natural resources.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Maryland, for example, the Department could support the designation of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park and provide financial assistance for acquiring conservation easements for priority historic properties to enhance the historical park.
The Department could also support implementing the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail plan through investments in land, restoration, preservation, recreation, and interpretation, as well as designation of the entire multi-state trail as a National Blueway.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.