They might seem an odd couple, Crassostrea virginica and Castor canadensis — the Eastern oyster and the North American beaver.
But ecologically, for the Chesapeake Bay, the mollusk and the rodent are a lovely pairing, a compelling linkage of water and watershed.
Both were keystone species, the one’s dense reefs and the other’s ubiquitous damming and ponding create habitat and enhance water quality to the benefit of a host of other species.
Both have been reduced by overharvesting or pollution to a sliver of their historic abundance. This happened so long ago that today we suffer societal amnesia about how the Chesapeake’s bottom and its landscapes looked and functioned for thousands of years before Europeans shattered the natural order.
The oyster part of the story has been emerging, with scientific estimates that the Bay’s original stocks filtered and cleansed water equivalent to the estuary’s entire volume every several days. Today’s remnant oysters take months or more than a year.
But we still scarcely comprehend the immense habitat value for other estuarine life attracted to the countless nooks and crannies of the extensive, vertical reefs that oysters built. That’s because in modern times it has seemed natural for oysters to be spread widely and thinly across the Bay’s bottom. An 1869 account described a “continuous oyster bed” stretching 140 miles along the Eastern Shore, from Kent Island in Maryland to Cape Henry in Virginia.
But the current “natural” state is an artifact of more than a thousand dredge boats and many thousands of tongers, breaking apart and scattering the natural reefs before science could even understand their nature.
And the new order might have seemed an improvement, as oysters freed from reefs grew faster, shapelier, easier to harvest — never mind the lost habitat and new vulnerability to smothering by sediment.
The beavers’ tale is similar. For millennia, they inhabited virtually every stream of the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed; and they controlled how the land shed water — cleanly, clearly, slowly — in a manner almost unrecognizable today.
We understand how green the precolonial Bay watershed was; we seldom realize how wet it was.
I got a glimpse of that well-beavered landscape on a recent foray with stream restoration expert Scott McGill. He wanted to show me his cutting-edge transformation of a half-mile-long, badly eroding gully that flows through Baltimore County into the Big Gunpowder River, a Chesapeake tributary.
This Holy Grail of restored streams looked … well, horrible. It was not the picture-postcard babbling brook that meanders, pools and riffles in an eye-pleasing cascade of sparkling water contained by forested banks. That is the stuff of calendars and posters and is “natural” only in our historical and ecological blindness, McGill said.
Instead, he had just bulldozed the gully’s 12-foot banks into the channel, along with all of the surrounding trees, resulting in, its creator said proudly, “a muddy mess.”
We could mostly hear the water, down there somewhere, gurgling, oozing, glinting occasionally from beneath a morass of mud and decaying logs.
Almost unwalkable, it recalled the landscapes that often caused the 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition to abandon the stream valleys for the slopes. The reason: Beavers had dammed and ponded everywhere, creating broad, shrubby, soggy meadows. The single channel stream that is today’s ideal was in fact more the exception than the rule.
On the Chesapeake, it was the same. Rainfall did not rush to the Bay. It oozed and seeped, soaked into the ground, then reappeared, its energy dissipated through multiple flow ways.
Sediment settled out in ponds behind dams that might occur every 50 yards on some streams. Nitrogen, the Bay’s prime pollutant today, was digested in the beaver-created wetlands and turned to harmless nitrogen gas. And the ponded landscape was lush with waterfowl and all manner of amphibians, not to mention otter and muskrat.
As with oyster reefs, those landscapes have been gone so long that we’ve forgotten what they looked like. Also like oysters, the trapping out of beaver — by the mid-1700s on the Chesapeake — likely was seen as beneficial.
Some of the richest farmland was the deep bottom sediments of vanished beaver ponds. Settlers heading west knew the best places to graze their livestock were the fecund oases of grasslands that sprang up where beavers had once dammed.
As your eyes and your brain adjust to what McGill has done to the Baltimore County gully, you begin to notice his “mess” is aflutter with butterflies, hopping with frogs and ablaze with the flowering of asters, daisies, Joe Pye weed and the new growth of willows.
He did this restoration, McGill said, for about a tenth of what a traditional job might have cost. Traditionally, you’d bring in rock, engineer a winding channel with stabilized banks. It would all look quite lovely — until a big storm blew it out.
I saw such blowouts of some of the most pristine streams in Maryland after Tropical Storm Agnes’ historic deluge in 1972. I thought at the time it was just nature’s way, but that was just my amnesia. I realize now that a beavered landscape would have been more resilient.
McGill said his measure of restoration success may come years after he’s done — if beavers move in, “and improve on anything I can do.”
A restored Chesapeake could use lots more oysters and beavers. Work on the former is well under way, with Maryland and Virginia creating sanctuaries where reef building can once again occur. Watermen, and to a point the Hogan administration, oppose this as a loss of fishing opportunity.
Beavers, meanwhile, are coming back on their own, though they are frequently trapped and killed as nuisances who chew down trees for food and dams and whose dams cause flooding. New Englanders, Canadians, several western states and even Mongolia are finding ways to peacefully coexist with all of this, having learned that the benefits of beavers far outweigh the costs.
McGill is an apostle for how to share the watershed with beavers, using “beaver deceiver” devices such as pipes placed in their dams to control flooding. He is organizing a major conference on beavers (BEAVERCON 2020) near Baltimore this March to spread the good word.
No doubt there will be limits to re-beavering and re-oystering in a watershed pushing toward 18 million humans; but for now, the main limit is our ecological amnesia.
The views expressed by columnists are not necessarily those of the Bay Journal.
Article was published on February 6th, 2020 and written by Tom Horton at The Bay Journal.
View the original article on the Bay Journal website.
Scientists are mapping, reviewing status of hidden waterways in Baltimore, DC area.
The suburban street looks like many others: neat ranchers with garages in front and yards that look freshly mowed. At the end of the block sits a community of newish homes built in the 1980s and 1990s when western Baltimore County was growing quickly.
The bridge from the older homes to newer ones is almost imperceptible. But visitors who look behind the guardrail in this Gwynn Oak neighborhood will see a stream peeking out of the weed-choked woods. Walk a little farther, and the stream enters a concrete tunnel nearly a quarter-mile long.
Like so many streams in suburban Baltimore and Washington, DC, this one is buried. It has no name. Children don't play in it. Adults don't think about it much, other than to monitor it to make sure it doesn't cause flooding. The only hint of its existence is in the name of the roadway: Glen Spring.
For decades, as cities and counties became urbanized, planners focused on getting rain water away from homes. In Baltimore and Washington, where hundreds of small creeks and streams feed the Chesapeake Bay, that usually meant channelizing, paving and ditching the waterways. Nobody really missed them. But the minnows, worms, frogs and microorganisms that called them home and broke down the stormwater's organic material could no longer survive once the streams became concrete.
As a result, the buried and channelized streams deliver higher levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon to larger rivers and the Bay, according to research by University of Maryland professors Sujay Kaushal and Andrew Elmore.
A big part of the problem, Kaushal said, is that the buried streams are connected to both the sewer system and the storm drains. Kaushal and Elmore's 2008 paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment introduced an algorithm to map each stream in the Baltimore area and review its status.
Both scientists are continuing their work on buried streams. Kaushal is testing buried and unburied streams to determine how much more nitrogen and phosphorus enters larger rivers when the tributary streambed is concrete. Elmore is mapping all of the buried streams in Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay and all of those in the Potomac River watershed. That includes all of the District of Columbia and parts of West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
One positive development, Elmore said, is that cities and towns are realizing that burying waterways is a bad idea — not only because buried streams deposit more pollution into the larger waterways they empty into, but also because babbling brooks and free-flowing rivers are far more attractive than blocks of concrete.
"There's something we call pipe creep. You've already buried part of it, and you want to get a permit to bury it a bit more, extend it another 10 feet. That still goes on. But wholesale stream burial, the way Baltimore has done in the Jones Falls, as an example, that doesn't really happen anymore," said Elmore, a landscape ecologist at the University of Maryland's Appalachian Lab in Frostburg.
Montgomery County is a good example, Elmore said. Although county engineers buried and channelized many streams when the county was developing in the 1970s and 1980s, it is now focused on restoring the streams, and a big part of that is uncovering them, or "daylighting" them.
Baltimore officials have discussed replacing the Jones Falls Expressway, which in places covers the Jones Falls, with a boulevard that would daylight some of that stream. In Washington, DC, officials are discussing removing some of the highways that run through parks and now bury or channelize parts of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and their feeder streams.
Brent Bolin, director of advocacy for the Anacostia Watershed Society, said DC has begun a lot of these projects. One detail making it easier to do them, he said, is the large amount of land owned by the National Park Service or the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. It remains difficult and expensive to daylight whole streams, Bolin said, because that often requires road removal and the permission of multiple agencies. But in recent years, he said, the Park Service and the commission have been amenable to removing the channels and hard surfaces to restore the streams to a more natural state in areas where it's possible to do so and still protect neighborhoods from flooding.
"I understand having to channelize a stream under a roadway, but there is sometimes another half-mile that's been channelized. That tributary is now going to be a biological dead zone…when we stock shad, there are whole zones we cannot reach because of those barriers," Bolin said.
In Baltimore and the surrounding counties, stream restoration has been on a project-by-project basis.
In 2009, Baltimore city restored Stony Run, a popular hiking area near the city-county line. Baltimore County has daylighted several streams, including one across from the Timonium Fairgrounds off York Road. Ecotone, a Harford County firm, is preparing to expose Plumtree Run, a stream that was buried in the 1950s when the area was developed. The town of Bel Air and the Harford County Conservation District will collaborate on that project.
Kaushal said he's pleased to see these projects, and he agrees with Elmore that municipal planners are far more aware of the damage done when streams are buried than they were a decade ago. But, he said, there is still too much out-of-sight, out-of-mind when it comes to stormwater management.
In the case of Glen Spring, Kaushal said, maybe the planners did the best they could with what they knew. But now, years after the last house was built, they know better.
"We need to realize that infrastructure evolves over time," he said. "Just because we built a neighborhood doesn't mean it's done."
Slowing the flow is the name of the game.
A stream restoration project is aiming to reshape and restore the north branch of Bennett Creek, which flows into the east end of Joe Richardson’s property near Urbana.
“I believe in stewardship much more so than ownership,” Richardson said.
The 115-acre property is home to Bar-T Mountainside, a summer camp, after-school program and environmental education center.
Some goals of the restoration project include addressing severe sediment erosion, reshaping the creek and restoring the flood plain.
Ultimately, any erosion that occurs in the creek will be carried into other waterways, such as the Chesapeake Bay.
Some erosion is normal. However, up to 5 or 6 feet of sediment has eroded horizontally. This keeps natural flooding from occurring, vegetation from growing on the streambanks and nutrients from being filtered.
In June 2017, the restoration project received over $1 million in funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
Frederick County also chipped in almost $97,000 for engineering and design.
Donald Dorsey, a project manager for the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources, said one of the main goals for the county is finding cost-effective ways to improve water quality. This project was a good candidate for that and had previously been identified in a watershed study as having severe erosion.
“Ultimately, the biggest goal is in five years, people wouldn’t even know that there was a stream [restoration] project there,” he said. “It would return back to a natural state where things are kind of self-sufficient.”
About three months into the project, large amounts of sediment has been removed, banks of the creek and its tributaries have been reinforced, trees have been removed and pocket wetlands have been created.
“Since we’ve purchased the property, the stream looked completely different,” Richardson said. “There were some places where there was 5-foot sediment walls that over two or three years kind of blew out and the stream was trying to reshape itself.”
The changes are meant to force the water to flow more slowly to reduce erosion and create the opportunity for nitrogen and phosphorus to be filtered out of the water by a wetland area and creek-side plants and trees.
Students from several schools, including Urbana High School, have been part of the restoration.
“We’re an environmental educator,” Richardson said. “There’s so much opportunity for teaching here.”
In March, planting will begin. Hundreds of trees and plants such as aquatic grasses will be added.
Richardson said he hopes to make the land a showcase for sustainable architectural, energy, agricultural and environmental practices.
“Fifty years from now, long after I’m gone, I’m hoping amphibians and habitat[s] will thrive here, that this will be a place where people can come and see what stewardship looks like.”
Business View Magazine interviews Scott McGill, President of Ecotone, as part of our focus on the environmental services sector.
Is the damage that’s been done to our biodiversity and ecosystems reparable? That’s been the focal point of ecological restoration since it emerged as an engineering design practice in the 1960s and so far, the field has provided some very effective answers. One important foundational principle upon which the discipline rests is that of mutual sustainability – with threats of climate change and severe degradation looming large, human beings need to be more cooperative with the land masses, waterways, and other species that constitute their habitat. It’s also one of the tenets of the design-build firm Ecotone, and it’s reflected both in its name and in its corporate focus – an ecotone is a transitional space where biological communities meet and integrate. From its offices in Forest Hill and Columbia, Maryland, the company prides itself on being that vital link between habitat quality and socio-economic development.
We started doing design-build and built it up slowly. We hired staff in 2001. In 2005, we launched our construction division. We bought our own skid loader which, at the time, was kind of a big deal. I always go back to it and think about that and how we’ve grown so much. Ecological restoration is a multibillion-dollar business across the country now. It wasn’t always that way, but as the environmental awareness and ethic has evolved, there’s been more capital dedicated to restoring our environment. We’ve accelerated our growth in the last five years in response to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Maryland really pushing to execute on ecological restoration work. A lot of our funding comes from government agencies. In Maryland, especially, there’s a real push to do restoration associated with the Chesapeake Bay.”
The Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. and Maryland plays a big part in its habitat health ecosystem restoration. In 2010, the EPA established pollution load limits to restrict three major pollutants fouling the Bay’s waters: nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. So far, the state has met each one of its reduction targets, leading the pack as far as the other watershed jurisdictions are concerned. “We work with several of the local counties,” McGill continues. “We have task order contracts with them. One of our larger clients is the State’s Department of Natural Resources. They have a Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund that’s supported by a rental car tax, of all things. They allocate money every year to restoration projects around the Bay watershed. We collaborate with the local soil conservation districts and other non-profit organizations, find good projects, find good partners, and try to do ecological restoration work to restore the Bay.”
It used to be that the environmental movement and the business world were irreconcilably different, but as the effects of climate change are beginning to be experienced at the local level, more and more companies are moving into the environmental field, every day. “There are a lot more folks in this space than when I got started,” McGill admits. “One of the things we strive to do is look for design-build type scenarios where we can provide value and quality control; whittle it down to one responsible entity so that if something goes wrong, we can go fix it. Our designers can collaborate with our superintendents and construction staff to ensure the best possible outcome.” Ecotone has also adopted a more vertically-integrated approach toward the restoration process. “We started our own local, native nursery where we grow all our own plants,” McGill says. “We do a lot of our own hauling. We do all our own permitting, engineering, and ecological design. Think of it in contrast to an engineering company that just does design work, or a contracting company that only does construction. We do it all.”
As expectations continue to rise regarding the potential of habitat restoration to confront the global environmental crisis, Ecotone is turning its attention to new paradigms of thinking about ecological processes to better equip itself with a path forward. “One of the things we like to do is something I call cross-pollination,” McGill explains. “For example, we go out to a conference every year where the focus is on salmon restoration and restoring the salmon fishery to the Pacific Northwest. I’ve learned a lot from folks like that. Then, I bring that knowledge back and use it in our own design work.”
Information sharing and meaningful involvement are an integral part of Ecotone’s philosophy, as is the practice of using nature to restore nature. “When we do a river restoration design on a piece of property, we look at what’s available onsite and try to incorporate that into our design,” McGill notes. “A lot of typical restoration work uses rock. But, we like to minimize the use of rock by using wood that we can find onsite, instead – a material that we can balance, cut and fill, so that we can bring efficiencies as well as reduce our carbon footprint for the project itself. It’s part of an approach we’ve labeled Less is More.” Circling back to the topic of mutual sustainability, Ecotone makes every effort to respect the specialized and responsible components of the areas they restore. “We’ve noticed the North American beaver coming in and colonizing the restoration sites on some of our stream and wetland projects,” McGill says. “The North American beaver was sort of the dominant engineer in our waterways and estuaries 500 years ago. They’re making a comeback. We ask ourselves: ‘how can we utilize what they do in our projects to get better and higher ecological outcomes?’” It’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that reinforces Ecotone’s commitment to environmental sensitivity and ethical collaboration.
Work practices that involve restoring ecosystem health naturally foster a culture of partnerships and a certain devotion to community ties. Another one of Ecotone’s secret ingredients has been the company’s ability to turn transactional relationships into solid alliances. “I bought my partner out a few years ago and we’ve been working with M&T Bank ever since,” McGill reveals. “They’ve been a great ally and taught me a lot about how to grow a business. Delmarva Surety, our bonding company, has been a shoulder to lean on and a close advisor for 15 years. One of our haulers, Chavis Enterprises in Bel Air, MD, is always at the ready to get us what we need on our sites. The quasi-government agencies and the soil conservation districts that we work with – we’ve been collaborating with them close to 20 years to solve water erosion issues on farming properties. Of course, there’s the farming community as well; private farmers, mostly. We’re always looking for ways that we can improve their business, their agricultural efforts and practices, as well as provide ecological uplift on their farms.”
Corporate culture has also been very relevant in shaping how the firm approaches the responsibility of restoring ecosystems to a more resilient state. McGill shares some of his thoughts on the core values and unique personality of Ecotone: “I strive to grow a company that is someplace I would’ve wanted to work at in my twenties. I’m very open source. We share all our results with our employees, so they’re informed about how the company’s doing. We plan activities throughout the year so that we can get to know one another outside the office and off the construction site.” This year the company planned a trip to Hershey Park for its employees and their families. In the past, they’ve also hosted Family Fun days with waterslides, barbecuing, and petting zoos.
“We’re a B Corp since 2018,” McGill adds. “We’re one of the few companies in our space that offer paternity as well as maternity leave. We do profit sharing We put out a weekly newsletter so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing in the company. In the last couple of months, we’ve also started what we call a Trib Award. A tributary is a stream that feeds a larger river. If you see a colleague that did something special, or went that extra distance to bring some new knowledge, or try something different, you can nominate them.”
“We like folks to come here to try new ideas, to be innovative and creative,” says McGill. “We want Ecotone to be a place where employees can grow their careers. Retention is so important to us.” The company operates on the belief that a commitment to the employee can only strengthen Ecotone’s accountability to customers, the local Maryland counties, and the environment at large. “We’re always looking at challenges out there from an ecological and environmental standpoint. Water levels are rising. We can argue about the cause of that, but it’s happening. Getting into shoreline restoration area resiliency and responding to some of those global environmental issues is something I’d really like to get into. Operating a successful business is great and making money’s obviously great, but there are a lot of problems that need solving. We’ve got to make a profit, everybody knows that. But we’re trying to change the way the world thinks about ecological restoration.”
Event will highlight the biological and ecological benefits beaver add to natural communities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 21, 2019
(Forest Hill, MD) - Ecotone, an ecological restoration firm in Maryland, and its co-sponsor, the Beaver Institute in Massachusetts, are cooperating in an effort to host BeaverCON 2020, an international conference for environmental professionals and practitioners that will explore restoration methods that attract or take advantage of the natural engineering provided by beaver.
Beaver dams can help improve water quality by reducing sediment and nutrient flow to downstream sources, creating wetlands, and enhancing wildlife habitat. Although beaver have been considered a nuisance for decades – and often killed – an emerging field of research suggests beaver deliver natural benefits that, at worst, compliment the design and construction provided by restoration professionals – and, at best, are more sustainable, more cost-effective, and offer less disturbance.
The conference will be held March 3 – 5, 2020 at the Delta Hotels facility in Hunt Valley, MD. To register or learn more about the event, interested parties can visit www.beavercon.org. Topics will consider land management issues, co-existence strategies, hydrologic impact of beaver on water systems, beaver dam analogues in restoration, and many more. Speakers have committed from Canada, Norway, England, Wales, and across the U.S. “We want this conference to be a sister of the very popular State of the Beaver event in Oregon,” Scott McGill, CEO of Ecotone, said. “I’ve attended the Oregon conference and thought it one of the most informative and challenging exercises in professional development…changing the way you think. We hope to capture that spirit for the East Coast audience and anyone else who can join us.”
To learn more, download the press release
VIDEO COURTESY CBS BALTIMORE WJZ
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The State of Maryland is spending nearly a million dollars to recontour a mile of stream bed to better for the stream itself, fish and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
After years of planning, construction began at Moores Run Stream 4 months ago, and will soon be finished.
Park School in Baltimore took a field trip to the stream Friday to bring students closer to nature.
“It was really fun doing this stream walk,” third-grader Jaemin Gehlbach said.
Teachers at Park School said it is important to educate the next generation to value the habitat.
“They care about keeping it healthy and safe and learning about it,” Park School science teacher Emily Schuttenberg said. “They take it with them when they leave.”
Park School Receives $975,000 Grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to Restore Moores Branch
PHOTO COURTESY THE PARK SCHOOL OF BALTIMORE
The Park School of Baltimore was recently awarded a $975,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to restore Moores Branch, the stream that runs through Park’s campus, in the Jones Falls watershed. Park’s stream restoration project — intended to improve water quality and habitat — was one of the 18 proposals selected to improve Maryland’s waterways through the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. The school will partner with Ecotone Inc., an environmental design firm, to begin the restoration in spring 2019.
Park’s longtime commitment to environmental stewardship made this restoration project a top priority for the school. As a natural resource and one of the campus features that is integral to programming, the stream plays an important part in the community. The primary objective is to provide ecological and functional uplift for the stream, which has been showing signs of erosion. For over 50 years, Park School has incorporated explorations of Moores Branch into the hands-on learning curriculum, serving students from all three divisions. From Kindergartners observing stream life to Middle and Upper Schoolers conducting in-depth studies of water quality, students have been able to explore, observe, and study the stream in a variety of ways.
The process of applying for grants — and the resulting partnership with the DNR and Ecotone — also both serve as a model for civic engagement for Park's students. As Ecotone works to restore the stream using environmentally sustainable practices, their staff will engage students of all ages by explaining the process and purpose of environmental restoration.
With the grant now secured, Park can complete the work of restoring Moores Branch, ensuring that current and future students will continue to experience the 100-acre campus as an extension of the school's classrooms.
"Many animal guests made appearances at the Susquehannock Wildlife Center 'Night With the Wild' gala."
PHOTO COURTESY SUSQUEHANNOCK WILDLIFE CENTER
Nearly 200 patrons once again hooted and howled the night away at Harford County’s wildest annual party — a “Night With the Wild,” a charity event to benefit the nonprofit Susquehannock Wildlife Society (SWS).
The event, held on March 2 at Deer Creek Overlook, was the fourth held by the Harford County-based nonprofit conservation/education/rescue/research organization, and was aimed at raising awareness and funding for the creation of the region’s first wildlife center, which will be dedicated to habitat restoration, education and research.
Highlights from the evening included awarding the 2019 Ultimate Ambassador for Wildlife trophy — a first time tie — to Ecotone, Inc. and Main St Design, LLC for their fundraising and advocacy efforts; a spirited auction of donated items including local art, outdoor gear, donations from local businesses, and a meet-and-greet with some truly wild feathered and scaled special guests.
Patrons enjoyed an evening of great food provided by Pairings Catering, a specialty drink (“Copperhead Venom” — lime juice, ginger beer and signature vodka), local beer and wine, cupcake dessert, a coffee blend created for the event called the “Spring Peeper” by Brewing Good Coffee Co., wild music, and breathtaking natural décor, all while learning about the vision for the Susquehannock Wildlife Center through various displays and passionate speeches.
In an adjacent room, away from the dancing, auctions, and merriment, volunteers from SWS introduced patrons to the real stars of the evening — an American kestrel, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Wood Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle, Green Treefrog, Spotted Turtle, Eastern Milksnake, Eastern Ratsnake, and Eastern Kingsnake. Each of these critters had been born in captivity, injured, orphaned, or otherwise deemed unsuitable for release back into the wild. Instead, these animals were given a second chance in a new and more domesticated role as educational ambassadors – teaching the public about their species, habitat, and the environmental concerns that threaten them.
This year also ended with the first ever tie for the SWS Ultimate Ambassador for Wildlife award, which is presented to the top donor of the evening that advocates for the mission of SWS. Ecotone, Inc. and Main St. Design, LLC, are both local businesses who earned this award by showing their support for local wildlife, including their sponsorship of the event. Each will receive a handmade plaque featuring the new SWS turtle design barn quilt.
Andrew Adams, President of the SWS Board of Directors, noted that, “The Night With the Wild’ would not have been possible without our dedicated volunteers, silent auction donors, support from the community, and the support of our sponsors”, which included Harford County Government, Ecotone, Inc., Emory Knoll Farm (Green Roof Plants), Lassen Marine Webster, Inc., Kollar Nursery, Merritt Companies, Main St Design, LLC, MRA PMI, Stem Graphics Print Shop, Bel Air Liquors, River Breeze Services, Vince Marino Plumbing & Heating, Fiore Winery & Distillery, Checkerspot Brewing Company, Friendly Entertainment, Brewing Good Coffee Company, Flavor Cupcakery, and Pairings Catering. Their support, along with everyone attending the fundraiser, was noted for making development of a dedicated wildlife center possible.
As a chorus of frogs, owls, and other nocturnal species played in the background, SWS Executive Director Scott McDaniel presented a new original video showcasing accomplishments, a close up look at the Wildlife Center in its present state, as well as a vision for its future. He then made an appeal to the sold out room of guests for financial support to help the organization “cross the finish line” to complete renovations for the Wildlife Center this year. McDaniel spoke of the growth of the organization during its almost eight years of existence and thanked Harford County Government for the Tourism Grant it awarded the organization, which helped fund its operations again during the past year so that money raised could be directed towards the capital renovations of the Wildlife Center.
Recently retired Maryland Natural Resource Police Corporal Michael Lathroum won the SWS Conservation Partner of the Year award based on his service of not only enforcing wildlife regulations that protect local wildlife and bringing justice to those who harm it, but also for participating in numerous rescues of injured or at risk wildlife during his career. Volunteer Trailmaster Eric Kimmel won the SWS Volunteer of the Year award based on his increasingly active role maintaining the Wildlife Center property and working hard to help complete renovations so the facility may open in the near future. While one volunteer is highlighted each year, all of SWS volunteers are owed a debt of gratitude for donating their time, talents, and energy into the organization.
Proceeds from the event will assist in funding the costs of renovating and constructing the wildlife center — creating a place where visitors will be educated and entertained by museum-quality displays, hands-on activities, and live-animal education ambassadors. Having a permanent facility will also allow Susquehannock Wildlife Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to expand its already active and successful wildlife rescue, education, and research efforts. The facility, currently under renovation, is located on the 20-acre Hopkins Branch Wildlife Management Area property in Darlington.
For more information about this event or other local wildlife issues, or if you’re looking to donate or volunteer, please contact Susquehannock Wildlife Society via their wildlife hotline at 443-333-WILD (9453), by email at email@example.com, or visit their web site at http://www.suskywildlife.org.
Copyright © 2019, The Aegis, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication
Article was published on Friday, March 15th, 2019 in The Aegis. It was written by Aegis Staff Report. View the original article here.
"The Center for Watershed Protection designed this bio-retention pond for Rising Sun's Veterans Memorial Park to redirect stormwater and alleviate flooding. "
PHOTO COURTESY CWP.
"With a bio-retention pond in place designed by the Center for Watershed Protection flooding issues like this in Veterans Memorial Park in Rising Sun have been largely eliminated."
PHOTO COURTESY CWP
RISING SUN — With the work at Veterans Memorial Park finished Brian Seipp, watershed manager with the Center for Watershed Protection, waited for the rain to fall to assure his months of work there was successful.
And it was. Even in the torrential downpours of late the stormwater remediation project at the Rising Sun park successfully kept the town property off Wilson Road from going underwater.
“This was the biggest project we’ve done in Rising Sun,” Seipp said of the grant funded $634,700 effort that redirected and redesigned the creek and added drainage and other elements.
“Everything seems to be working exactly as we designed it,” Seipp said.
The CWP project came to be through the Octoraro Watershed Association, which studied the town and identified several projects that would improve the health of the watershed but also add quality of life to Rising Sun.
“I’m hearing that the roads are flooding less,” Seipp said. “The step pools held water and drained down.”
Those step pools have also helped attract more wildlife.
“There are all kinds of tadpoles and more amphibians,” he said, noting along with the wildlife, kids are also more attracted to play in and along the creek now that some of the embankments have been lowered. Gentler slopes invited wading and exploring.
Center for Watershed Protection, while new to Cecil County, has been around for 27 years. Interestingly enough, it’s headquartered in Ellicott City. The company dedicated to addressing issues with flooding was itself, in that historic area that has been in the news recently because of flooding.
“With Tropical Storm Lee, we got flooded out in 2012,” he said. “We decided at that point we needed to move.”
While still in Ellicott City, CWP is out of the flood zone.
With Veterans Park complete CWP has moved on to a similar project at Fair Hill Nature Center.
“We are working with them to take out a lower parking lot,” he said. “The Department of Natural Resources wants that dirt parking lot out of the wetlands.”
To compensate, CWP proposes using land across from the Nature Center where the remains of a burned out barn now stand. Clean up of the property will be the first step.
“Then some of it will be torn up and restored as a meadow,” Seipp said.
The new parking will accommodate both school buses and horse trailers.
“The plans are in review. We hope to move to construction by the end of 2018 or early 2019,” Seipp said.
Rising Sun Commissioner Dave Warnick shows how stormwater will now run into Veterans Memorial Park under control of stones, ponds and pipes.
CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER
‘Just waiting for
the grass to grow’
RISING SUN — Commissioner Dave Warnick walked gingerly through Veterans Memorial Park on Friday, showing where former swampy ground was now dry in spite of recent rain, a result of the $700,000 remediation program funded by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
“The Ecotone project is complete,” he said of the Forest Hill company’s effort to redesign the creek, slow down and redirect the stormwater entering the park, and stop flooding and erosion.
Warnick walked carefully to avoid disturbing areas with grass seed.
“Now we’re just waiting for the grass to grow,” he said.
The bulk of the work was completed last year. The second phase recently built the ponds in the park and at town property off Dairy Street. Ecotone added more turns to the stream and also made the stream bed wider. Using wood from trees felled for the project, workers added more water calming fixtures to the creek.
The biggest challenge was the large grassy area, the low point in the park where water would collect in between the picnic pavilion and the basketball court.
“We had trouble getting it to drain,” said Warnick, Rising Sun’s Parks and Recreation commissioner.
Ecotone devised a system that sends the water underground.
“It’s 80 feet of corrugated plastic pipe with a sock on the end,” Warnick explained.
Inside the sock is plastic pellets that help slow down the water, allowing it to soak in rather than float on the surface. That takes care of the average rainstorm.
“This is still going to be swampy at some point because it’s a swale,” Warnick said.
However, much of the water is redirected, and there are plans to keep the basketball courts accessible. He used almost $5,300 left over from another park grant to purchase lumber for a footbridge. In those extreme cases that footbridge over the lowest point, to be built at a later date, will allow access to the basketball courts with dry feet.
“They also built this collection pond,” he said, pointing to the system installed along Park Circle. It’s 6 feet deep and filled with stone,” Warnick said.
He expects the water will seldom rise above the stone, however, another depression is next to it with a drain to carry the overflow underground.
“That second pond will only have a few inches,” he said. “Before, what would happen is water would come out of the pipe and run straight through the park to the stream.”
More of these step ponds were installed along the chain link fence on the town’s Public Works property to also slow down runoff. Warnick was pleased to show that the extreme erosion that runoff created was gone and should not return. Warnick walked the park in the dark during a recent downfall to see the step ponds work.
“It was pretty amazing,” he said.
Baltimore, MD - February 02, 2018: In the latest podcast of Roughly Speaking, Dan Rodricks of The Baltimore Sun visits a beaver dam at Bee Tree Run, speaks with Mike Callahan, the founder of the Beaver Institute, Frances Backhouse, the Author of "Once they were hats: In search of the mighty beaver”, and Scott McGill, the founder & CEO of Ecotone.
Almost wiped out centuries ago by fur trappers, beavers have made a comeback in North America, including the Mid-Atlantic and the Chesapeake Region. While many see them as a nuisance -- slayers of trees, builders of dams that flood roads and farm land -- biologists and natural resource managers see good in the beaver comeback. Their dams create rich habitat for other mammals and fish while filtering sediment and damaging nutrients from waters that flow to the Chesapeake Bay.
"This is what Chesapeake Bay restoration, wildlife habitat, ecological diversity, and ecosystem services look like. It's free", says Scott McGill. "We need to allow these ecosystem engineers to do what they do." You can listen to this 42 minute podcast via The Baltimore Sun or on your preferred podcast App.
Please do share your thoughts about the role of Beavers in our ecosystem. If you need assistance with wetlands, streams, or beaver management on your property then do reach out to the restoration experts at Ecotone.
In reconstructing the stream, Ecotone shaped a winding path, brought in large rocks and set logs in the stream in key places, all to slow the water down as it carried through the farm. With a laugh, the Balls said during construction, they joked with friends and neighbors that they were building a “lazy river” as a new on-farm attraction.
“It was awesome to see them make it and how they put it in,” Darlene said. Along with the environmental repairs, Ralph said the fencing and crossings has helped him with rotational grazing. On their Locust Hill Farm, the Balls raise about 80 beef cattle and have a dairy herd of about 40 Holsteins. “I can rotate the cattle better,” Ralph said. “If I want to block them from different areas, I can do that better.”
The Balls partnered with the Harford County Soil Conservation District which secured a Maryland Department of Natural Resources grant and funding from USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program for the project. The project, along with other best management practices they employ on their farm, garnered the Balls much recognition last year, receiving Cooperator of the Year honors at the district and state levels and also being selected by DNR as its 2016 Wildlife Farmer of the Year.
Several duck boxes were installed along the new stream path and in the restored wetlands and trees were planted throughout the fenced area. Ralph said ducks have come back to the area and as the trees grow, he said more wildlife species will find the area.
Bill Tharpe, Harford County SCD manager said while the area provides some habitat now, the wildlife benefit will increase over time.
“The vegetation is going to provide insect habitat which is going to work it’s way up the food chain,” Tharpe said. “The majority of these benefits is still yet to come.” Restoration projects like the Ball’s show one half of the tricky balance farmers have to keep in managing wildlife on their farms.
Whether it’s deer on Delmarva, or bears in Western Maryland, farmers region-wide have nuisance issues with wildlife to contend with while trying to promote habitat for species that are being pushed out. “Anything in balance is good, I think.” Darlene said. “You need a certain amount of everything but when it gets to be too many of one or another it gets to be a nuisance.”
On Locust Hill Farm, the Balls lost five calves to coyote attacks last year until Ralph brought in a trapper. Foxes scamper across wrapped hay bales leading to decay in the bales. Ralph said an avid hunting program — and traffic whizzing by on MD Route 155 — has helped keep deer in check on their farms but they have seen neighbors’ crops decimated. Black headed vultures are also a continual threat to new calves and as a protected species, it leaves the Balls and farmers like them with less options for control. “It’s sad. They’re worse than the coyotes now,” Darlene said.
Article by Sean Clougherty, The Delmarva Farmer. To read the article please visit the American Farm Publications' website at http://bit.ly/2snrSFA
ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION ENHANCES WATER QUALITY IN CHESAPEAKE BAY - Sustainable Stream Restoration Techniques Improve Habitat and Reduce Restoration Costs In Baltimore County
As part of their sustainable approach to restoration, the Ecotone’s team constrained itself to using natural materials obtained on-site and minimized the use of imported materials. This helped substantially curtail transportation costs while increasing the project’s sustainability through native species and legacy sediment gravel. Ecotone utilized a state-of-the-art gravel screener to sift riffle material and used sod, which the company prepped and planted in an adjacent field a year before the start of the project, rather than coir matting that typically is imported from outside the United States.
"By implementing our “less is more” approach to stream restoration we reduced project costs, minimized our carbon footprint, and kept heavy equipment off local roadways," said Scott McGill, founder and CEO of Ecotone. "We think this project could serve as a model for sustainable ecological restoration. Not only did we complete the project at half the cost of traditional engineering approaches, but we helped improve the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
“The stream has been running clearer than at any time in recent memory and the aquatic life has increased noticeably,” said Henry Pitts, Property Manager of First Mine Run. “I would highly recommend ecological restoration to other landowners as it will enhance property values, decrease flooding and storm damage, provide increased wildlife habitat and insure horticultural diversity for many years to come.”
To learn more, download the Press release.
Article by Jane Bellmyer, Cecil Whig. To read the article please visit the CecilDaily website at http://bit.ly/2BkvET6
ECOTONE NAMED IN THE INC. 5000 LIST OF AMERICA’S FASTEST GROWING PRIVATE COMPANIES - Ranked #15 AMONG TOP ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES COMPANIES
We are excited and humbled to be recognized for our growth by the Inc. Magazine”, said Scott McGill, Ecotone’s Founder and CEO. “The Inc. 5000 award validates our efforts to partner with local government, nonprofit organizations, and private entities to facilitate sustainable ecological restoration in the Chesapeake Bay”. Our growing team is committed to solving complex environmental challenges and continue to be the model for sustainable and innovative restoration throughout the United States”.
The companies in the Inc. 5000 list have generated $206 Billion in aggregate revenue and in the past three years created 619,500 jobs. To support the national economy, in 2017, Ecotone generated over 10 Million in revenue and added over 30 new jobs to the ecological restoration industry.
Founded in 1998, Ecotone is a Harford County based ecological restoration company that designs and builds sustainable ecosystems to reduce erosion of stream banks, manage stormwater, conserve and restore wetlands, and restore forests. Ecotone provides full-delivery ecosystem restoration, mitigation, design, construction, and consulting solutions throughout the United States. With over 19 years of experience, Ecotone has restored over 1,200 acres of land and over 130,000 linear feet of stream using sustainable restoration techniques.
To learn more, please download the Press Release
SUSTAINABLE ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION COMES TO VIRGINIA - ECOTONE RESPONDS TO MARKET DEMAND BY OPENING NEW OFFICE IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
To learn more, download the Press Release.
"When it rains, like Thursday, all the stormwater from Howard Park, Baltimore Pike, goes into the storm drains and into Plumtree Run," Kline said. "Throughout the years, it has eroded the banks and the banks aren't slowing down the water and filtering the water before it goes into the Bay."
When the project is completed, the banks and plantings along the banks will help absorb and filter those chemicals that come off the impervious surfaces in town, Kline said.
The town received a $411,495 grant from DNR through the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund to do the work. Ecotone, Inc., of Forest Hill, is the contractor. The town paid $89,980 for the design of the project, piggybacking on a contract with Harford County Public Schools, Kline said.
Kline said the town was fortunate to get the grant, as only $20 million in grant money was available with $70 million in requests submitted for trust fund grants. "We're very fortunate we got this first one. We're very, very, very happy," he said. This project will help the town treat about 12 acres of its impervious surfaces, helping it meet an expected mandate from the state that the towntreat 20 percent of its impervious surfaces in the next five years.
For Bel Air, with 800 acres of impervious surface, that's 160 acres to treat to prevent nutrients and other pollutants from getting into local streams and, eventually, into the bay. Plumtree Run's restoration began on the other side of Baltimore Pike several years ago, with the daylighting of the stream between Thomas and George streets.
Kline said he drove by that section of the stream Thursday while it rained to make sure it was working properly.
"It used to flood a lot at George Street. Now you can't really see the water. It's going through real slow, through the natural environment of plants and grasses," he said. "It's doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing, going through a filtering system, which prevents erosion."
Article by Erika Butler, The Aegis. To learn more, please visit Baltimore Sun at http://bsun.md/2t619IL
Laura Gardner, an engineer with CWP, said slowing down the stormwater will eliminate erosion and enhance the park. That will be accomplished with step pools in the stream and retention areas. “We’re going to capture the sediment coming off the ball fields ... which should help contain some of the runoff and make a nice feature for the park,” Gardner said of the planned bioswale.
Jon Stewart, restoration designer for Ecotone, said the park would remain open throughout construction because the bulk of the work would occur away from the playground equipment and the popular areas along the stream. However, visitors need to stay clear of the construction areas.
Commissioner Augie Pierson asked if it would be possible to erect signage in the park to explain the project. He reasoned that could help the public understand what is happening and why.
Dave Warnick, the town commissioner overseeing the project, said that, when completed, visitors will notice that the area in between the picnic pavilion and the basketball courts is drier, the banks of the stream are stabilized and there are more places for children to play along and explore the stream. An added bonus is the project could save the Rising Sun Little League some money. “The retention area will allow us to capture some of the soil from the Little League field and put it back,” Warnick said, adding that the special material added to the infield costs the league about $1,000 a ton.
Stewart said when trees are cut down the wood will not leave the park. “Any tree we remove will get used in construction,” he said.
Wood-based riprap and other water diversion methods is what would become of the lumber.
Rising Sun has received almost $783,000 in grants for the project. The bulk of that came from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and its Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
“DNR wants to spend their money where the kids have access and can interact with the environment,” said Bryan Seipp, CWP watershed manager. The day he gave the state agency a tour of the proposed project there were children playing in the stream, which he views as the proof of the project’s validity.
Warnick said that activity was key. “We know kids play in that stream,” Warnick said. “That’s why we put a splash zone in the design.”
Article by Jane Bellmyer, The Cecil Whig. To learn more, please visit The Cecil Whip newspaper at http://bit.ly/2rDCmex
Ecotone concurs with GreenGive's approach at fostering collaboration to help organizations share resources and ideas, learn new approaches, engage others in their causes and coordinate actions across sectors to achieve high impact. Ecotone has donated $500 to support the water-focused, environmental non-profits that are part of the GreenGive initiative. These non-profits include the Annapolis Green, Back Creek Conservancy, Friends of Anne Arundel County, Our Creeks and Conservancy, St. Luke’s Restoration of Nature Project, Spa Creek Conservancy, Scenic Rivers Land Trust, Severn River Association, South River Federation, Watershed Stewards Academy and the West/Rhode Riverkeeper.
“We are challenging our supporters to recognize that the more we work together and the more we give, the more we will accomplish,” Suzanne Kilby Etgen, executive director of the Anne Arundel Watershed Stewards Academy, and a lead coordinator of GreenGive said. “Real change requires a true collective effort. We want our community members to become fully engaged in the great programs underway in Anne Arundel County to restore local waterways, ensure clean water, protect trails and lands, and establish Anne Arundel County as an exemplary urban watershed. We will be encouraging constituents to broaden their interests and become more engaged in all of our work.”
“We support the efforts of non-profits to restore ecological functions in Anne Arundel County and within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” said Scott McGill, CEO of Ecotone, Inc. “These grassroots efforts will help create awareness, raise funds and engage the community. To support GreenGive’s noble efforts, Ecotone has donated $500 to the environmental non-profits in Anne Arundel County.”
To learn more and donate to the GreenGive initiative, please visit http://bit.ly/2ryhwS
Many sites within the town were developed prior to the consideration of stormwater runoff and its effects on water quality. A project description document indicated that impervious cover from these sites, including buildings, parking lots and driveways, transport a variety of contaminants that may degrade water quality. Over time, the volume of water that has run off has created areas of severe sediment erosion.
Sebra said the town wanted to do its part beyond future development and redevelopment to serve as an example of what a locality can do to protect and enhance water quality. Project expenses totaled approximately $374,000, however there is no cost to the town, said Sebra. “By stopping the erosion problem…we can reduce pollution into the Rappahannock and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Richard Moncure of Friends of the Rappahannock.
A formal plan began in 2013 to begin the process of improving Kilmarnock’s stormwater runoff at two prioritized sites. The first location, the Sal’s site, is in a wooded area between 466 and 488 North Main Street. James Beane and Richard Russell own the property. The runoff from some 11.57 acres of land flows through this one location. The second site is adjacent to Lancaster Middle School at 85 School Street. The property is owned by the Town of Kilmarnock and Northern Neck LLC and runoff from 17 acres flows through this location. Both sites are within the Eastern Branch of the Corrotoman River Watershed.
“The head cuts in Kilmarnock were created by many years of runoff from impervious surfaces in and around the town and were continually getting bigger as more erosion occurred,” said nonpoint source specialist Sam Johnson of the Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District.
This project will reduce sediment and nutrient pollution by stabilizing and reshaping nearly 1,000 linear feet of headwater stream reaches, which is expected to cause reductions of 812 tons per year of sediment, 706 pounds per year of total nitrogen and 280 pounds per year of phosphorus.
The project also will improve groundwater and surface water hydrology by slowing down water runoff, increasing infiltration and creating wetlands. It will reduce risks to infrastructure and safety by stabilizing channels and reducing stormwater runoff velocity and improve physical habitat for a headwater biotic community. This project will preserve existing native vegetation and provide transferable materials for other regional restoration efforts and provide educational lessons by conducting events for various groups and students.
The contractor on the project, Ecotone Inc., indicated that there are 500 tons of boulder type rocks and 250 tons of smaller rip rap between the two sites. “This size project is significant and we have not seen a practice of such scope in the area before. We applaud the town for making such an effort to protect water quality,” said Johnson.
Sebra said the project has been an educational experience for local sixth-grade classes. Their environmental science lesson included hands on experience with erosion and how stormwater can contribute pollutants into the water. This shows how a locality can step in and help protect water quality, said Sebra.
“Kilmarnock is embracing and showcasing that they are a premiere river town,” said Moncure.
Organizations that have supported and have been a part of this project are the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Ecosystem Services, Ecotone Inc., Virginia Department of Environmental Equality, Friends of the Rappahannock, Center for Watershed Protection, the Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District, Friends of Lancaster, Northern Neck Planning District Commission, Virginia Department of Transportation and Lancaster County.
Article by Madison White Franks , Rappahannock Record. To learn more, please visit http://bit.ly/2tNrehl
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Trademarks, company names, products and service names used in this website are for informational purposes only. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
© COPYRIGHT 2018. Ecotone, Inc. ®. All Rights Reserved.
Trademarks, company names, products and service names used in this website are for informational purposes only. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.