EASTON — Talbot County Economic Development and Tourism and Waterfowl Chesapeake held a “Coffee and Conservation” event Friday, Nov. 8, featuring guest speaker Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Coffee and Conservation was a free networking event to celebrate the opening of the 49th annual Waterfowl Festival and the business of conserving environmental resources. Guests included Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore; Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot; Easton Mayor Robert Willey; Easton Town Councilwoman Megan Cook; and Melissa Kelly, representing for U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

“We are so lucky to have a festival that has lasted for 49 years,” Talbot County Economic Development and Tourism Director Cassandra Vanhooser said. “Waterfowl showcases the best of the Eastern Shore and showcases who we are. We support the conservation message of Waterfowl Chesapeake and Waterfowl Festival.”

Haddaway-Riccio congratulated Waterfowl Chesapeake for 49 amazing years. She said outdoor recreation generates $14.4 billion in consumer spending in Maryland.

“A great example is the Innovative Technology Fund, which is a grant program administered by DNR,” Haddaway-Riccio said. “Through these grants, we are providing a start-up funds to businesses that are developing new technologies to improve our environment, including an algae-based product that sequesters greenhouse gases and technology improving the design of poultry houses.”

Haddaway-Riccio said DNR has finalized its oyster management plan, which is the first update to how it manages oysters in nearly a decade. The plan focuses on the need for sanctuaries, a sustainable wild commercial harvest and a robust aquaculture industry.

Other news for aquaculture included the state rolling out a nutrient credit trading program, making aquaculture approved as a source of credits.

“This could be a game-changer in the future in terms of providing an additional revenue stream and capital for aquaculture businesses,” Haddaway-Riccio said.

She also announced Talbot County has an aquaculture project underway with an American farm-raised salmon grown in Talbot County. The DNR also has an important partnership with nonprofit organizations that have prosperous plans with grant funding, she said.

“Before a grant is awarded, our team analyzes each proposed project to determine the cost per pound of nutrient pollution reduced to ensure we are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and to ensure we are deploying the most cost-effective methods to get results,” Haddaway-Riccio said.

With projects underway on the Eastern Shore, Haddaway-Riccio ended her speech by saying an event like the Waterfowl Festival is a great example of bringing a community together around the mission of conservation.

“That is something we can all be proud of, as Eastern Shore residents and Marylanders,” Haddaway-Riccio said.

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