Community Member

Save the Plumtree Branch

Ellicott City, Maryland

Save the Plumtree Branch is on a mission to protect the Plumtree Branch Stream in Howard County, Maryland from a so-called “restoration” process that will inherently destroy woods around the stream and harm the habitat of local fish, birds and other wildlife. Formed in 2022 by Roger Davis and Beth Connor out of concern for their neighborhood’s environmental well-being, the group has been working to raise awareness of how the county’s stream restoration process isn’t the environmentally friendly measure that it’s billed as. While such restoration is promoted as a method for meeting state and EPA requirements to reduce the amount of pollution and sediment being sent into the Chesapeake Bay, the group highlights how even the Chesapeake Bay Foundation itself has expressed doubts about the validity of such urban stream restorations. As a community watchdog looking out for the local environment, Save the Plumtree Branch provides a critical voice for residents to protect their neighborhood.

A recently completed stream restoration in Mt Hebron seriously reduced home values and destroyed the existing woods
A recently completed stream restoration in Mt Hebron reduced home values and destroyed the existing woods.

A small group of residents – yet one that includes the former president of the local Saint John Community Association – Save the Plumtree Branch (SPB) is focused on advocacy in favor of environmental resilience in their neighborhood. These efforts center around the message that these types of stream restorations fail to follow the spirit of the law that’s supposedly aimed at protecting the environment. While Howard County is required by law to reduce the amount of sediment and pollutants going to Chesapeake Bay, SPB has noted that such questionable stream restorations are merely the cheapest way for the County to meet these regulatory requirements. SPB also points to how the Army Corps of Engineers and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) have suggested that localities shouldn’t overly rely on stream restorations to reduce pollutants going to the Bay, and should instead aim to reduce the amount of water entering the stream from upstream of where erosion is occurring.

A big sandbar shows there is still plenty of sediment in the stream.
A big sandbar shows there is still plenty of sediment in the stream.

SPB’s advocacy notes that the resource tradeoff of stream restoration hasn’t even been acknowledged by Howard County, with the proposed restoration threatening a vibrant ecosystem that’s home to 85 documented species of birds to get the mitigation credits required by the EPA and MDE. SPB has also raised concern with regional decision makers about increased flooding from such restoration projects that would clear away trees around the stream. “We could call ourselves Flood, Sweat & Tears,” says Connor, noting that historic floods in 2016 and 2018 garnered national news coverage. Hydrologist Steve Emerman meanwhile refers to such stream “restoration” projects as stream modifications, many of which he says have exacerbated flooding problems. 

Roger Davis’ May 2023 letter to the MDE asking the department to deny the permit for the stream restoration cited troubling commentary from the project contractor Ecotone, when the Ecotone representative from Ecotone stood next to the stream and admitted that “If this area floods three times a year now, it may flood ten times a year after the stream restoration.” The letter to MDE also noted Ecotone’s admission that their project plan will clear almost 18 acres of land, including a 1/2 acre of woods cleared just to make a secondary shortcut path between two staging areas. Davis further cited the habitat threat to owls, bats, frogs and toads.

“The delusion that everything will go back to normal after construction may help some to sleep at night, but the Chesapeake Bay and our local ecosystem will not benefit from their delusions,” Davis concluded in his letter to MDE.

Trees died during the restoration because the roots were trampled on by heavy equipment.
Trees that died during the restoration because their roots were trampled on by heavy equipment.

Greg M. Schwartz

Greg M. Schwartz

Greg is an award-winning investigative reporter who specializes in covering environmental justice issues with a track record for shining a light on crooked science and regulatory capture. He has a Master's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kent State University in his native region of Northeast Ohio, where he also served on the May 4th Task Force. He has spent most of his adult life in California, where he's also a freelance music journalist with a preference for socially conscious rock 'n' roll bands.


Roger Davis and Beth Connor


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Climate Impacts

Erosion-Subsidence, Flooding

Environmental Justice Concerns

Fighting Development/Destruction of Wildlife/Extinction of Species


Green Infrastructure, Nature-Based Solutions, Policy Reform

501c3 Tax Deductible


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