CEO’s Corner



Our hearts weigh heavy after hearing longtime friend, co-worker, conservationist, and accomplished fly fisherman Walter T. “Wally” Vait, passed on June 7.

Wally was a unique individual with a wonderful perspective on life– the room was always a little brighter when he was around. “I’ve known Wally since I was 15, and that’s 40 years ago,” said Scott McGill. “He was president of Trout Unlimited, and we worked on conservation projects over the years. I also knew him as a fishing guide, and he was one of the best.” Wally will certainly be missed.

Friend and colleague, Dan Rodricks wrote a beautiful piece describing Wally’s rich life and experiences, The guide: Wally Vait and the all of it.

portrait of wally vait in lush green bush

“The first time I stepped forward as an environmentalist was back in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught on fire. As a 15-year-old, just fresh from the farm, the image of a river on fire was disturbing in so many ways. So began my adult life journey; filled with lessons on how to become a better steward of the land.

– Wally Vait

2022: A Year For the Beaver

The past couple of years have been full of challenges, and the dawn of 2022 doesn’t necessarily look like it’s going to be smooth sailing as we enter the 3rd year of the pandemic.  This hasn’t stopped us from promoting our nature based, lighter touch, approach to ecological restoration.   Ecotone’s less is more approach, using materials and techniques which leverage wood and resources found on-site, continues to be very good for our projects and the results we are seeing, as well as reducing the overall cost of restoration.   I couldn’t be more proud of the work we are doing, leveraging ecology and nature to realize better and higher ecological outcomes.

We have always been eager to share our approach, teaching others not only what we do and how we do it, but WHY we do it.  We believe that by setting the table for nature to restore itself over time is how we can scale our efforts to reach more communities and the water resources that they cherish. 

In our home, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we are excited to see that the Bay restoration community is starting to catch on to the idea that a nature-based approach is the key to slowing down polluted runoff and building balanced ecosystems. The Bay Journal’s recent article touches on everything from the history of beavers in the watershed to the cost-effective alternatives to “nuisance” beaver removal that can save infrastructure, taxpayer dollars, and deliver clean water. This is one more step forward towards being able to scale bay restoration efforts.

2022 is also the year for the second BeaverCON, and our theme is Building Climate Resilience: a nature-based approach. Due to the omicron surge, we decided it was best to move the conference to June 14-16 to ensure that we will be able to travel and gather more safely, but this also means that we have more time to put together a fantastic lineup of speakers.  We are feeling the effects of climate change in real-time, and we are looking forward to spreading the word about how listening to and observing nature can help us be more resilient in a warmer world.   If you feel, as I do, that this is an important message, please consider attending.  I can promise you won’t regret it.  If you would like to offer more support and sponsor, please reach out to me directly at

New Ideas Rarely Hit a Home Run

I have come to relish the cackles and laughter when first introducing the beaver message. To me, it means we can make significant progress and add more folks to the “Beaver Believer” camp as we move into the next phase of Bay restoration with climate change drawing into question so much about our current restoration practices. I am happy to see the North American beaver as a restoration partner moving from “new idea” to “good idea.”

Read more…

Big Win for the Beavers as We Continue Work on Beaver Creek

Look out Chesapeake Bay. Ecotone is coming for you hard and fast in partnership with our buck toothed, flat tailed, ecosystem engineers. In 2016 we threw out the suggestion that the North American beaver can be the champion of water quality improvement for our cherished Chesapeake Bay. They were here by the millions in the 1600’s. The history of the fur trade in the Chesapeake landscape confirms this. They may be the answer to restoring our cherished Bay to it’s former glory. It’s been a tough and challenging journey. We have been mocked and ridiculed by some for our provocative approach here in the Eastern US. We took this as a sign we are headed in right direction. We are executing on the first large scale nature and process based project on Beaver Creek in Washington County, Maryland, installing 65 beaver dam analogues which are man made beaver dams which promote colonizing by Castor (beaver). Last week, in the middle of construction, we got a thumbs up from nature. The Bda’s performed well after a heavy discharge event, lifting water and hydrology onto the floodplain, spreading water out and promoting floodplain function, at a fraction of the cost of traditional “natural channel design”. Embracing chaos of nature is we are headed. Stay tuned. We hope beaver will like our work and colonize this project, build and improve our dams, providing long term water quality benefits. We embrace the journey to change the way we think about ecological restoration. Please join us in this important effort. Many thanks to Maryland DNR and the Washington County Soil Conservation District for partnering with us and taking the risk to be different and innovative, and embracing nature based restoration.

Using Nature to Restore Nature

At Foster Branch in Joppatowne, beavers built a small dam or two causing a nearby walking bridge to flood. As a result, Harford County’s Department of Parks and Recreation asked Ecotone to bring down the water level in the pond so folks in the community could continue to use the walking paths. Our response to the issue was to install a flow management device. The device allows the beaver and the pond/wetland habitat they created and maintain to remain in Copenhaver Park, thereby preventing many tons of sediment per year from entering tidal waters, as those sediment are now being deposited in the beaver pond. Once again, Team Ecotone and Beaver are a wicked effective combination!

A River Cuts Through A Rock Not Because Of Its Power, But Its Persistence

Construction began this week on the stream restoration of Graveyard Creek with nearly 4,000 feet of Ecotone designed restoration. This project has been in the works for several years. It definitely takes a village to get these projects designed, permitted, funded, and ready for construction. Kudos to all!!

Work Smarter

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Spreading the Beaver Gospel

“We’re wading into Narnia on a bright fall day. It’s darker in here. And tangled. The water nearly reaches the tops of my muck boots. Unlike the fantasyland of children’s literature, this “Narnia of nature,” as my guide calls it, is quite real: a swampy, surreally diverse little ecosystem hidden in a mundane patch of northern Baltimore County, Maryland countryside. The realm we’re exploring represents a promising retro approach to ecological restoration and, very possibly, a dirt-cheap way to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.” 

Excerpt from Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Beaver Believers, By Marty LeGrand
Worth the read:


I’ve come back to this quote many times when things aren’t going as fast or the way I’d like them to: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” -Calvin Coolidge.

Ecotone just received its first credit releases for our wetland mitigation bank which took over 7 seven years to bring to fruition. The perseverance award of the year has to go to Marie Brady, who shepherded this project through the morass of regulatory hurdles, of which there were many. Well done Marie!

The Obstacle is the Way

As we look ahead to 2021, I am grateful for your perseverance and dedication in navigating 2020 and finding inspiration in the roadblocks we faced.  The year that was 2020 reminded me of a book I read every night on my phone while attempting a crazy 550 mile mountain track through the Highlands of Scotland in 2015The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday.  I DNF’ed after day 6 but the book gave me great inspiration to keep going.  Times of crisis forces us to be creative to reach our goals – many of you managed to do just that.  2021 will provide us with new and difficult challenges for sure.  I look forward to facing them head on with you.


During this period of relative solitude, I’ve started writing poetry for the first time in my life.  Most of it is shit.  Some of it is getting to marginally ok, maybe.  So I’ll make myself super uncomfortable and share one with everyone.  The point is this.  Sometimes when you make yourself vulnerable, put yourself out there, and take a risk, it can make a difference.  Maybe it’s your turn.

The Black Cloth

The wolf’s howl bounces,

Waking the spirits from their slumber.

The cold winter breeze rolls the velvet earth dressing. 

Deer perk to the replay clamoring off icy cliffs.

The invisible rules.

Quiet.  Listen and feel are in charge.

The brook gossips,

Grasses dance.

Reflecting globes peer into the night, 

A falling star, ushers another soul to its next move.

Yip yip yip.  Coyote rejoice.

The dance is ever flowing.

Unripe becomes ripe, without judgement.

Gaia sighs in, sighs out.  

The Grandfathers rejoice. 

Ecotone Beaver Food

This fall we’ve been getting reports of beaver colonizing many of our projects.  This is good.  Getting a good grade from the beaver means we’ve done our job.  Think about it – we reconnect the floodplain, slow the water down in many instances and plant lots of beaver food.  Here is a link to beaver at Bear Cabin Branch, a project we constructed in 2018, complete with video and soothing, meditative music.  More recently, beaver have colonized the North Creek project and Yellow Branch. 

Superman poses in bathroom stalls

During a recent Ecotone employee evaluation with a colleague, the subject of self-confidence came up.  It reminded me of a ted talk by Amy Cuddy  I watched four years ago.  I then used the simple techniques in this Ted Talk to turn my fear of public speaking (yes, I had a fear of public speaking)  into something I look forward to, relish, and enjoy.  Use your body to change your mental state- it’s free and it’s powerful.  I taught this technique to my daughter who used it just prior to her interview with Teach for America.  She got the job.  Fake it till you make it, Wonder Woman poses in your cubicle, Superman poses in the bathroom stall – it’s all here in this amazing ted talk that will make you want to stand up and clap at the end.