CUMBERLAND — The nonprofit Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to advance Maryland’s forest products sector.

The council will use the grant to develop a plan to strengthen Maryland’s forest industry through the next two decades to promote job creation and business growth in designated opportunity zones throughout the state.

The grant will be matched by $150,000 in funds and in-kind contributions by the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources, Commerce and Agriculture; the Maryland Agriculture and Resource Based Industries Development Corp.; Association of Forest Industries; Maryland Forests Association; Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Commission; and the Allegany Soil Conservation District.

“A healthy, vibrant forest industry is a benefit to our economy, as well as an essential component to the environmental health of our state,” said Gov. Larry Hogan in making the grant announcement. “This grant will help key stakeholders, including the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council and its partners in state government, develop a strategy to rebuild our forest industry.”

The funds provided by the Economic Development Administration support the crafting of an economic adjustment strategy, which is a statewide analysis of the forest industry and its unique market positions to culminate in strategies for advancing the forest products sector in the coming decades.

“The Department of Commerce is delighted to be a partner in this effort to put Maryland’s forestry industry on a new path to success,” said Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “This is great news for our state, our environment and our economy.”

“The Department of Natural Resources understands the vital link between vibrant markets for forest products and sustaining healthy forests,” said Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “Forests comprise Maryland’s largest category of land cover and they are critical to our economic and environmental health, especially the Chesapeake Bay. We look forward to incorporating this analysis into our state’s programming for this important industry.”

“Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council would like to thank our partners, especially the Maryland Forest Service, who worked diligently with us to develop this project proposal,” said council president Craig Hartsock. “We would also like to thank all of our partners who have committed matching funds to this effort. We recognize the vital importance of the forest industry to the economic health of not only Western Maryland, but all of Maryland, and are eager to begin working with our partners and stakeholders to address the decline within the forest industry.”

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