The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has awarded it annual Maryland Conservationist of the Year Award to Rob Etgen, the founding executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC).
“Rob’s passion for conservation has ensured that our children and grandchildren will be able to appreciate the natural beauty of the Eastern Shore, and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Kim Coble, CBF’s Maryland Executive Director.
In a ceremony Wednesday in Queenstown, CBF lauded Etgen for his pioneering efforts. ESLC is one of the most successful conservancy groups in the country, having preserved more than 45,000 acres of natural areas and prime farmland – just in the six Maryland counties his organization serves. That group is only one of a multitude that Etgen, a Galena resident, helped start.
"I am honored, surprised and so humbled to be recognized with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation conservation award. CBF has always impressed me with the incredible focus of its work, and the high integrity of its leadership. Thank you CBF for this award, and for all you do for the Bay, " Etgen said. "I also am grateful to everyone else on the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy team - our board, staff and supporters - in the past 20 years we have accomplished much together and the Eastern Shore is truly a better place for our efforts.”
Etgen is a native Marylander. Previous to working at ESLC, Etgen worked in the Attorney General’s office in the Department of Natural Resources. Etgen’s last post was with Maryland Environmental Trust, where he helped create eighteen private land conservation organizations. The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy was one of those. Currently, there are over fifty land trusts in operation throughout the state.
Etgen was one of the architects of Maryland’s successful Rural Legacy program, which helped foster innovative state-local partnerships that have led to the protection of 60,000 acres in the state from sprawl development. He also created Eastern Shore 2010, a regional land use agreement that has catalyzed citizens, decision-makers, and planning professionals to help make Maryland’s Eastern Shore a better place to live.
Coble noted Etgen’s vision for land conservancy, seeing the effort as more than land acquisition, but helping people see the value of their natural environment. As evidence of that vision, Coble noted a recent ESLC initiative – a donation of a half-acre community garden to the Town of Easton.
“This small public space does not boast the most pristine of wildlife habitats, nor does it filter vast quantities of polluted runoff flowing to the Bay,” Coble said. “But it is a place where people can see how protecting the environment, including all its critters and important natural systems, is fundamentally about people too. People can connect with nature even through a patchwork of garden soil and the promise of a plentiful harvest that sustain s their family. “