We Cannot Rest
In honor of Earth Day 2020, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy President, Rob Etgen, penned the following letter about the history of Earth Day and Maryland’s role in the environmental movement.
This quarantine period has been full of worry for me, but it has also been a time of tremendous gratitude for family and nature and community here on the Eastern Shore. Our go-to daily activity is a walk around our neighborhood with stops for catching grass shrimp or noticing the loons or songbirds in migration. Our weekly pattern involves a hike on Wye Island or fishing on Tuckahoe Creek or a bike ride on the Cross Island Trail. As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home.”
On this 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, I am especially grateful for the progress we have made on the environment in this region. The original Earth Day was instrumental in getting national progress moving on initiatives for clean air, clean water, endangered species protections and so many others. In the early 1980’s, Maryland stepped to the forefront of the national movement in passing and funding significant new initiatives. Under the leadership of Governor Harry R Hughes – the last Governor from the Eastern Shore – the Maryland General Assembly passed new legislation protecting non-tidal wetlands, tidal wetlands, Critical Areas around the Bay shoreline, species protections, and many more. During that same time, Gov. Hughes formed the multi-state and federal partnership to clean up the Chesapeake.
Over my career in conservation starting in the mid 1980’s, I have seen the lands and waters of this region improve steadily. The eagle and the Delmarva Fox Squirrel were both taken off the endangered species list, Rockfish and Canada Geese both came back after complete harvest bans, all of the counties in our region have the most protective conservation zoning, and since 2015, summertime swimming in the Chesapeake has been the clearest and sweetest in my lifetime.
But we cannot rest. The coronavirus outbreak has made it clear that we must do more to secure access to nature and open space, in and around our communities, and to ensure that our prime farmland is critical to feeding this region over the long term.
You can help by living as lightly on the environment as possible, supporting your local conservation efforts, and voting for candidates who follow this lead. Most importantly, during this anxious time restore yourself with a walk in the woods, fishing with a child, or breathing in that sweet salty air while watching a beautiful Eastern Shore sunset.
Rob Etgen, President
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
Robert J. Etgen has been the Executive Director of ESLC since October 1990. He started his career as a Forest Ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service and also worked at times for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Attorney General’s Office in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, two private law firms in Baltimore, and with the Maryland Environmental Trust where he assisted in the formation of eighteen private land trusts. In land conservation Rob has published extensively, received numerous awards including the Chesapeake Bay “Conservationist of the Year” in 2007, and has led Eastern Shore Land Conservancy to become one of the most successful and innovative land trusts in the Country. In community service Rob has served on the founding boards of several organizations, is currently serving as Vice President of the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, and has been a “Big Brother” since 1994. Rob received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from West Virginia University. Rob spends his spare with his wife Suzanne and two daughters Caroline and Rose, going on adventures around the Eastern Shore.