I hope that everyone is having a great summer! Time flies; it’s hard to believe that we are already more than halfway through 2021. More than that, it’s even more difficult to believe that we are nearing a year and a half since the beginning of the pandemic.
Fortunately, we now find ourselves in a better place than we were one year ago today, and life is beginning to normalize (or at least return to something closer to normal). You all have kept this agency fully operational throughout this pandemic to an extent greater than many others; in fact, I was especially proud to see us named as an example of a “best practices agency” in some recent training materials on pandemic response and teleworking (special thanks to our IT folks and Human Resources). Through the good work of our Outreach staff, we’ve found ways to keep the public informed and further educational efforts even during a time period when traditional models weren’t available.
With that, we want to take what we’ve learned and make the future DWR the best that it can be. With respect to our work practices, you recently received the survey seeking your input as to scenarios that best enable your work and provide for the best experience, and we will use that information to inform us going forward. We will make sure that you are notified well in advance of any changes; at this point, so long as the status of the virus doesn’t take a turn, a post-Labor Day plan is the most likely timeframe.
I was pleased that the Governor and General Assembly saw fit to give all employees the 5% raise that recently took effect. I was especially happy to have the opportunity to extend this to our wage staff as well, who perform so many important functions for us. Well-deserved by all!
I want to thank Planning and Finance and everyone from all divisions who were involved in the development of our budget for this year. That is always a difficult task, involving tough choices. However, I’m hopeful that the financial future is bright. We are working with the Administration on a couple of fronts to increase funding to the agency, both near term and longer term. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), currently in Congress, would be a game changer not just for us, but for wildlife conservation efforts across the country. These possibilities are, of course, coupled with license sales increases during the pandemic that we hope to maintain, continuing high volumes of boat sales and transactions (thanks to our Customer Service folks for your continued good work on these), and significant federal dollars headed toward our Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson allocations in the future. Through some combination of these factors, I’m optimistic that we will see additional funding availability in coming years (and maybe even coming months, should some things work out).
I am excited that our next Law Enforcement recruitment effort continues to move along. With more people outdoors during the pandemic came increased demands on our staff—and during a time when we could not administer an Academy due to COVID restrictions. Thank you to all of our officers who stepped up during this time period to help fill gaps—additional help should be on the way soon.
Congratulations to our Wildlife Division staff on the completion of another regulations cycle. As we all know, these are always challenging, and operating during a time of virtual staff and board meetings made it even more so. Fortunately, as the Aquatics cycle gets ready to kick off, we will be transitioning back to in-person board meetings beginning next month, it certainly will be nice to get the board back to an in person setting!
Finally, just a continuing thankfulness to all of you for all that you do. No matter what division or position you are in, you are an integral part of this agency. Our mission to Conserve, Connect, and Protect depends on each of your efforts, and I’m fortunate to have all of you as coworkers!