Environmental Concern Announces its 40th Anniversary on World Wetlands Day

Environmental Concern starts its celebration to honor its 40th anniversary year on February 2, 2012, a date that coincides with World Wetlands Day.

Environmental Concern is a non-profit headquartered in St. Michaels, Maryland. With ties up to the international level, the organization’s main work focuses on wetlands around the Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Edgar Garbisch who was a chemistry science teacher at the University of Minnesota started the non-profit in 1972. He turned his attention to wetlands during a time in the U.S. when Americans began to put the environment at the forefront. In 1972 he returned to the place of his youth, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and founded Environmental Concern. Unlike water and air, two subjects that the public understood and valued as important, wetlands suffered from a legacy of false perceptions. Swamps, bogs and marshes were seen as undesirable components of the landscape good only for conversion to usable land. This perception manifested itself in the widespread destruction of millions upon millions of acres of wetlands.

Dr. Garbisch and his team worked over the years to both perfect the restoration of damaged wetlands while at the same time educating his peers in the scientific community and the public at-large as to the importance these critical habitat areas of the environment played in the larger ecosystem. He pioneered a successful restoration method in which he mimicked nature. This method required a steady supply of native marsh grasses to support all restoration projects and as no commercial nurseries grew these plants, Dr. Garbisch created a nursery at Environmental Concern where the seeds he collected in local marshes would be brought back and propagated so required plants would result. His propagation techniques are now used throughout the world as a best-practice. Today, Environmental Concern’s native plant nursery, the first of its kind in the nation, grows over 120 different species of native plants. These plants are used in projects as large as the restoration of Elliot Island on Fishing Bay in Dorchester County on the Chesapeake Bay (over 400,000 plants), to projects as small as a homeowner’s backyard rain garden or a wildflower meadow.

Over the years Environmental Concern grew in size, scope and staff with the mission to promote public understanding and stewardship of wetlands with the goal of improving water quality and enhancing nature’s habitat. This is accomplished through wetland restoration outreach and education, native species horticulture, and the restoration, construction and enhancement of wetlands.

Dr. Garbisch retired in 2002 and Suzanne Pittenger-Slear became the organization’s second-ever president. In addition to creating a leading knowledge-based campus for wetland restoration, education and establishing the first-ever native plant nursery in the nation; Environmental Concern was also the first organization to offer teachers wetland training workshops nationwide and published a number of books that became widely adopted by state and federal agencies. Further, the non-profit was awarded a project on Poplar Island, the largest wetland planting project of its kind ever awarded by the Baltimore District Army Corp of Engineers. The project crew planted about 550,000 wetland plants in less than two months.

Suzanne Pittenger-Slear, Environmental Concern’s president remarks, “The impact Environmental Concern has made on the scientific community and the public at-large has been tremendous. We are proud that our wetland services has directly improved the overall water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and it tributaries. We have been able to share best-practices in wetland restoration and enhancement with our scientific peers as well as the community-at-large up to the international level.” Further, she comments, “We are excited to enter into our 40th year on the significant date of February 2nd, which is World Wetlands Day. On February 2 in 1971, the Convention on Wetlands Intergovernmental Treaty was adopted. Each year wetland learning centers, government agencies, non-government agencies and concerned citizens take advantage of this opportunity to reach out to the wider community – raising public awareness of the benefits of wetlands, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.”

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands outlines that the over 160 member countries must commit to designating Wetlands of International Importance and to implementing the “three pillars” of the Convention: to designate Wetlands of International Importance; to work towards the wise use of wetlands through land-use, appropriate policies and public education; and to cooperate internationally concerning transboundary wetlands. Pittenger-Slear is the immediate past president of the U.S. National Ramsar Committee and currently serves as the national Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) Focal Point, a volunteer position that is responsible for public outreach in the U.S. for the wetlands of international importance.

Environmental Concern encourages the public to celebrate World Wetlands Day by visiting the Environmental Concern campus in St. Michaels on February 2nd to learn more about the importance of these microsystems in person; learning more about the work of Environmental Concern and wetlands online at www.wetland.org; visit “World Wetlands Day” under the “Activities” page at Ramsar.org to download educational materials and children’ activities; or taking the time to plan and clean up a local wetland of litter, debris and other potential contaminants.

About Environmental Concern
Environmental Concern is a public non-profit established in 1972 that exists to promote public understanding and stewardship of wetlands with the goal of improving water quality and enhancing nature’s habitat. The organization accomplishes its mission through wetland outreach and education, native species horticulture, and the restoration, construction and enhancement of wetlands. For the last 40 years, Environmental Concern has been known as the leading expert in the field of wetlands restoration, horticulture and education. Further, the public non-profit established the first native plant nursery in the nation. Environmental Concern’s campus is located at the head of San Domingo Creek in St. Michaels, Maryland, which is located on the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. To learn more, please visit www.wetland.org or call Suzanne Pittenger-Slear, president at 410.745.9620.