Local Environmental Groups

Howard County has many groups dedicated to preserving and improving our environment. Click on each one to visit their website and to find out more about activities, volunteer opportunities, and contact information. These groups make it easier to get involved in a cause you believe in or to just have fun learning something new and enjoying the outdoors.

Watershed Improvement Network meeting

Audubon Society of Central Maryland

The Audubon Society of Central Maryland (ASCM) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization whose members share an active interest in wildlife in general, and birding in particular, along with an overriding concern for the well-being of our shared environment. They are an active chapter of the National Audubon Society.

The mission of the Audubon Society of Central Maryland is to protect and restore birds, other wildlife and their habitats through education and action, for the benefit of people and the earth.

They maintain bird sanctuary habitat, provide family-friendly nature walks, hold bird seed sales and native plant sales and more.

Community Ecology Institute

The Community Ecology Institute (CEI) is a Howard County based non-profit organization with a mission to foster social and ecological health and well-being through research and programs that strengthen the connection between all people and the natural world.

The Community Ecology Institute (CEI) conducts and disseminates research on the importance of direct engagement with the natural environment for individual, familial, community and ecological health and well-being. They also design, implement, and promote opportunities to foster health and build community through connection to nature. CEI conducts the Columbia Families in Nature program, a family nature club.

Earth Forum of Howard County

The Earth Forum of Howard County is a monthly community forum for civil discussion of environmental issues and how to increase sustainable living in Howard County. The Forum brings together members of environmental organizations, government employees, faith communities, and concerned citizens to learn, discuss, explore, and form action groups to address vital issues.

Earth Form is usually held once a month on a Sunday afternoon. The Earth Forum is sponsored by and meets at the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County and people of all faiths are welcome.

Environmental Sustainability Board

Howard County’s Environmental Sustainability Board is a group of experts who volunteer their time to make Howard County greener, healthier, and more sustainable. The Board formed in 2007 and it’s members are approved through the County Council and County Executive. The Board assists in the implemen­tation of the County’s environmental agenda, providing both advice and review. Board members include experts in energy, air/water quality, environmental governance, community outreach and education, transit, green building, and environmental health. The Board meets monthly. Annual reports, meeting agendas and meeting notes are available on their webpage.

HoCo Climate Action

HoCo Climate Action is a grassroots organization working to inspire and engage the people of Howard County to take action to address the climate crisis.

Activities include advocacy at the local, state and federal level, discussion circles and more.

Howard County Bird Club

The Howard County Bird Club (HCBC) is a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society. Their purpose is to promote the knowledge, development, protection, and conservation of bird life and natural resources. The HCBC is also actively involved in lobbying for bird-related conservation causes at the local, state, and national level.

The Howard County Bird Club shares their interest in birds and natural history through pro-grams and field trips which are open to the public. Meetings are generally held the second Thursday of each month.

Howard County Climate Collaboration

The Columbia Association created a Climate Change and Sustainability Advisory Committee in 2018 to help guide them on how to enhance their leadership in these important areas of work. One of our charges is to engage the community in discussions around climate change and sustainability. We began this process by convening the community of people and organizations already working on these issues in the county to discuss what is already being done and how the CA committee can help to amplify and expand these efforts. The “Howard County Climate Collaboration” has become the working name for the seasonal convening of this group of people and organizations working on the behalf of the environment with a focus on climate action. Email climate.sustainability.committe@gmail.com to connect with the group.

Howard County Conservancy

The Howard County Conservancy is a local, non-profit environmental education center and land trust. The Conservancy was founded by a group of local citizens in 1990. Our mission is to educate children and adults about the natural world, preserve the land and its legacy and model responsible stewardship of the environment. The Conservancy provides environmental education programs at two locations – the home base at Mt. Pleasant Farm in Woodstock and at Howard County’s Belmont Manor and Historic Park in Elkridge.

The Conservancy provides environmental education (including school field trips, camps and much more), environmental programs for adults and children, hosts special events, provides numerous volunteer opportunities and educates Howard County residents about land conservation. Please check the website for the latest information on activities and volunteer opportunities.

Howard County Forestry Board

The Howard County Forestry Board acts as an advocate of sound forest management practices and promotes conservation of Howard County forest resources. Activities include educational programs, planting trees with volunteers, and timber harvest plan reviews. Specific activities include riparian buffer planting, school programs and creating arboreta.

Howard EcoWorks

Howard Ecoworks is a local nonprofit specializing in workforce development programming and environmental restoration, and has been rapidly expanding its footprint and involvement around Howard County. Ecoworks’ flagship program is the summer
READY (Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth) Program
, which hires and educates young workers aged 16-25 who reside in Howard County to build rain gardens, maintain stormwater management practices and provide habitat management services to the County and community during their summer break. Ecoworks has additional workforce programs including UpLift, a 10 month program that aims to place individuals in permanent environmental positions at the end of the term, and Seeds of Change, which is operated out of the Howard County Department of Corrections and engages in-mates in sustainable landscaping at the on-site native plant nursery.
Environmental programs include Tree HoCo, an initiative with a mission to assist homeowner associations and private landowners in increasing tree canopy on their property, and Soak it Up, a community engagement campaign for neighborhoods, faith-based institutions, and non-profits that encourages environmental stewardship activities through education, projects and community celebration. For more information about Ecoworks and all of the work they do for the county check out their website:  HowardEcoWorks.org.

Howard Soil Conservation District

The aim of the Maryland soil conservation districts is to enhance farming operations while helping to conserve our valuable soil and clean water. They also help both agricultural and residential property owners learn about and install best management practices that protect water quality.

The soil conservation districts are not regulatory agencies. Their staff of trained specialists helps landowners make wise land use decisions for their properties and connect them with cost sharing assistance whenever possible. Technical experts provide direct one-on-one assistance to farmers, homeowners and community associations with natural resource problems and questions.

Legacy Leadership Environmental Institute

Legacy Leadership Environmental Institute (LLEI) is an environmental education program for adult volunteers. LLEI offers a combination of classroom and field trip experiences to prepare volunteer leaders to work in an important, local, non-profit environmental organization.

Small classes are held during the day, generally twice per week from February to March. Participants register through a non-credit course at Howard Community College. The LLEI classes are held primarily in Ellicott City with some field trips to places such as the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

LLEI students can then do an optional mentored field placement with one of the partner organizations.

Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE)

The Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) is a non-profit educational association that serves teachers, students, natural resource managers, nature center staff, and environmental program managers with training programs, workshops, conferences, awards programs, networking opportunities, publications, and related materials and resources.

MAEOE coordinates the Maryland Green School program including workshops and on-line resources to help schools become Green Schools.

Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA)

In cooperation with the Middle Patuxent Environmental Foundation, Howard County Dept. of Recreation & Parks manages the 1,021 acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA). The main focus of the MPEA’s mission is natural resource conservation, environmental education, research, and passive recreation.

The area is managed using ecosystem management concepts to restore and protect the diversity of communities traditionally found in this region.

Ongoing natural resource management projects in the MPEA include meadow habitat restoration, natural resource inventories (bird surveys, vegetation surveys, etc.), forest management, deer population management, stream water quality monitoring, and the volunteer program.

MPEA is a wonderful community resource with over 5 miles of hiking trails. Volunteers help to maintain the trails and surrounding environment.

Patapsco Heritage Greenway

Patapsco Heritage Greenway’s (PHG) mission is to preserve, protect, interpret and restore the environment, history and culture of the Patapsco River Valley. In addition to their Heritage program, the Environment program has recruited thousands of volunteers who have participated in stream cleanups and tree plantings. These can be done with no prior experience needed. You can also become a certified Stream Watcher. Visit the website for more info and the Events calendar.

Patuxent Riverkeeper

Patuxent Riverkeeper is a non-profit watershed advocacy organization affiliated with the Waterkeeper Alliance, an umbrella group that licenses and links Waterkeepers internationally. The purpose of the Patuxent Riverkeeper is to protect, restore, and advocate for clean water in the Patuxent River and its connected ecosystem.

Members of Patuxent Riverkeeper patrol the river, investigate and resolve water quality and pollution complaints, launch and manage restoration projects, raise awareness about the river and its problems, and work toward better enforcement of current laws and better laws to protect the river.

Rockburn Land Trust

The mission of the Rockburn Land Trust is to promote for the benefit of the general public the preservation, protection and balanced use of natural resources in the Patapsco Valley Watershed, primarily between Ellicott City and Elkridge, including the holding of conservation easements.

The Rockburn Land Trust in partnership with the Maryland Environmental Trust, has accepted over 25 easements on about 215 acres of land in the Patapsco Watershed. The Trust also educates landowners about easements and encourages the creation of new easements through information sessions and receptions.

Sierra Club of Howard County

Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. The local Howard County group encourages enjoying and exploring nature and stewardship of our local environment and provides education programs for the pubic several times a year at no cost. They also have an active schedule of outdoor activities for the public such as hiking and camping.

Transition Howard County

Transition Howard County is part of the international transition movement that focuses on making communities more resilient. Transition Howard County works toward creating sustainable communities in Howard County that embrace localization and ethical stewardship of the environment. Committees work on issues such as energy, food, water, health, outreach and more.

The group also hosts public events on various topics, including Repair Cafes where broken items

University of Maryland Extension Howard County Master Gardeners

The mission of University of Maryland Extension Howard County Master Gardeners is to educate Maryland residents about safe, effective, and sustainable horticultural practices that build healthy gardens, landscapes and communities. Master Gardeners provide a wide array of education programs for the public and schools.

Interested residents can become a University of Maryland Extension Howard County Master Gardener by successfully completing the Master Gardener basic training program and then volunteering the required number of hours for certification.

Watershed Improvement Network

The Watershed Improvement Network (WIN) is a coalition of Howard County watershed group leaders and individuals who share an interest in improving the health and resilience of Howard County watersheds. WIN fosters collaborative efforts of the business, agricultural, environmental, social, cultural, educational and political stakeholders in the community by providing net-working opportunities and encouraging the creation of partnerships.

WIN two networking meetings per year which are open to the public. These meetings usually include one or two short presentations followed by updates from the attendees about recent projects. The meetings conclude with time set aside for networking. WIN also provides an on-line message board where members can exchange messages, share documents, and collaborate on-line.

This group does not have a website. You can join the email list to receive meeting notices and periodic email updates by sending an email to ereineck@howardcountymd.gov.

Watershed Stewards Academy

Watershed Stewards Academy trains, supports and empowers community leaders to serve as Master Watershed Stewards in the protection, restoration and conservation of Howard County watersheds.

Master Watershed Stewards reduce the negative impacts of stormwater runoff in Howard County and are key players in restoring the Chesapeake Bay, by working locally to reduce sediment and nutrients flowing into local streams and rivers that feed into the Bay.

Master Watershed Stewards learn best management techniques to reduce pollution at its source and “slow the flow” of stormwater from neighborhood watersheds into local streams. They then provide project implementation and outreach.