University of Maryland Extension

The History of the Master Naturalist Program in Maryland

The Master Naturalist program began in Colorado in the 1970's. Today, 34 states in the county have Master Naturalist programs.

In Maryland, the program began with a 2005 survey of personnel at Maryland parks, nature centers and other natural resource-related agencies and organizations, which indicated that a Master Naturalist Program would be welcomed and utilized. In 2006 the University of Maryland appointed a State Coordinator to develop the program. In 2009 a Steering Committee, composed of volunteers from the MD Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Howard County Conservancy, Howard County Recreation & Parks and private citizens, developed the program outline, logo, and curriculum and then tackled the task of drafting a training manual.

During the first two years we formed partnerships with MD DNR, USF&WS, and the Howard County Conservancy. These partners were instrumental in helping us design policy for a statewide program, provide training sites and instructors.

The Howard County Conservancy volunteered to host a presentation for potential Master Naturalist hosts/facilitators, in January 2010 and the pilot volunteer training, in March and April 2010. The pilot was targeted to train volunteers in Maryland's Piedmont region. Following this pilot volunteer training session, a pilot facilitators training was held in June 2010. In 2011, training programs for Master Naturalists will be offered at several host sites in the Piedmont region, and as the program expands, training will be offered in the Mountain and Coastal Plain regions.

As the program grows and gains recognition, we look forward to having certified Maryland Master Naturalists volunteering throughout the state in all areas of environmental stewardship.

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