DNR secretary, mayor talk about opportunities for students

DNR Secretary Mark Belton (left) met with Del. Mike McKay, Sen. George Edwards, Town Manager David Smith, and Mayor Ralph Salvagno (not pictured) to discuss state programs.

by Geoff Fox

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton was in Hancock last Thursday to meet with officials from the town and state to discuss programs to benefit high school students.

Mayor Ralph Salvagno, Delegate Mike McKay, Sen. George Edwards, and Town Manager David Smith discussed opportunities the DNR could bring to Hancock and the state where the DNR would teach kids about the natural resources and the opportunities that could be available to them for.

With the different types of resources such as forestry, waterways, and hunting, as well as the coal in the ground, there are a number of opportunities.

“If we can get kids who have an interest and create some programs to kind of foster that interest, I think it would serve well,” Salvagno said.

He said he didn’t need anything from the secretary from a school standpoint, just a confirmation it was a good idea and worth looking into.

With kids in Western Maryland growing up with these things, it would benefit them to know the laws and if the laws are unjust, how to go about changing them.

Belton said the short answer to Salvagno’s question was that it was indeed a good question.

However, he did have a longer answer.

Belton said the Maryland residents seem to understand the environment most folks in the country.

He credits that to the tremendous natural resources and a environmental standards for public education from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

“That has put us in a place after several decades of that, where the students who first got that are now adults and they’re teaching their kids and practicing good stewardship and they know about the opportunities,” Belton said.

While there are similar programs to what Salvagno suggested, Belton said they could be tweaked to be “very helpful” to his idea.

There is a program in Maryland called the Green Schools Program with over 500 schools in it.

These schools, Belton said, are certified green and the school community gets together to do environmental projects such as rain gardens and energy conservation.

There is also a junior hunting programs with fishing derbies and free fishing in certain places to get younger kids involved.

“I think there are things we can do to fit what you’re talking about,” Belton said.

With Hancock being one of the smallest schools in the state and under threat of closure, Salvagno said it’s an important part of the community.

“If we want to preserve our school, we need to make our school a little different, a little bit special,” Salvagno said and this type of program could be the way.

Looking at an economic situation of Hancock, Lanco Pennland and Harvest offer people jobs, but they could leave the area just like London Fog and Fleetwood a number of years ago.

Salvagno suggested investing in the things that can’t be taken away from the town in the future – hunting, fishing, and the trails.

“That’s going to be here. Let’s bank on something that can’t be taken away,” Salvagno said. “That’s what we’re really trying to do.”