Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Environmental Concern

Apr 17, 2012 12:04PM ● By Anonymous
During the 1970s, American citizens and our government became more aware of the effects that 20th century industrial, commercial, and residential pollutants had on the environment. When EC’s founder, Dr. Edgar Garbisch—a former chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota—returned to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where he had grew up, he noticed the damaged state of vital wetlands, which contain crucial ecosystems. Motivated to address this problem, he formed Environmental Concern.

Early on, Garbisch collected marsh grass seeds from nature, understanding their importance in the process of restoring the wetlands, and developed propagation methods to restore salt marshes. Today, his methods are used worldwide and, having found that the process offers a long-term solution to marsh destruction and erosion, the Environmental Concern nursery grows more than 120 types of native wetland plants and propagates more than 200 species. “EC’s projects and activities are focused specifically on wetland restoration, horticulture, and education,” says Suzanne Pittenger-Slear, current president and CEO. “We’ve been working to improve water quality since the early ’70s, before anyone realized how important wetlands were to the overall health of the nation’s waterways.” The facility is established at San Domingo Creek in St. Michaels, Maryland and spreads across 13 acres. The wetland plants—various tree and grass species—are used in restoration efforts.

Environmental Concern also upholds its title as the nation’s first wholesale wetland plant nursery. The success of Environmental Concern is widespread: currently, more than 40 countries use materials and methods developed by the organization.

Over the past 40 years, Environmental Concern has accomplished many endeavors including the largest planting contract ever given by the Baltimore District ACOE (in 2005), for which the organization planted 550,000 wetland plants on Poplar Island. EC also created a living shoreline on the Sassafras River that covers 5,000 feet of shoreline.

“We [EC] just completed the construction of a living shoreline on Fishing Bay,” explains Pittenger- Slear. “The county road adjacent to Fishing Bay was threatened with collapse from waves and high tides. A living shoreline was constructed and planted to reduce wave energy and to protect the existing road. The new shoreline is approximately 4,000 linear feet and provides 17 acres of marsh habitat.

Over 300,000 plants were grown in EC’s nursery and planted on the shoreline by our staff. The project was funded by a grant awarded to Dorchester County.” Environmental Concern works with both freshwater and tidal wetlands. Restoration is a crucial element in saving the Chesapeake and surrounding areas. Over 50 percent of the total wetlands in Talbot County are already diminished—in the late 20th century, the U.S. lost approximately 58,500 wetland acres per year.

The organization uses this knowledge to teach the community about how and why it is important to restore, protect, and preserve local waterways. Many programs start young and are tailored to teach children about environmental safety including a “Wetland on Wheels” mobile classroom that travels to schools.

How can you help? To restore acres of wetlands and miles of shoreline, teach the public and schools about the environment, and propagate native plants, Environmental Concern organization kindly asks for volunteers and contributions in 2012. To learn more visit Wetland.org.