Fifty Years of Vineyard Conservation
Since 1965, the Vineyard Conservation Society has been dedicated to preserving the environment of Martha’s Vineyard through advocacy, education and the protection of the Island’s land and water. As a local non-profit membership organization, VCS is the Island's most respected voice for environmental advocacy.

Climate Change in Focus: The Art of Conservation Returns for 2022
In 2014, VCS launched what would become an annual tradition: an art contest to encourage our island’s high school students to deepen their connections with nature and the habitats that sustain it — and to show off their incredible talents!

With the support of teachers from MVRHS and Charter School, the Art of Conservation contest has grown over the years, bringing into the fold ever more diverse media, creative writing and poetry, music, and most recently, the contributions of Middle School students as well.

The Art of Conservation is a creative space for students to contemplate and respond to environmental issues and inspirations. In doing so, they explore a meeting ground of critical thinking and art, and gain insight into the power of imagery to express their ideas or even catalyze social change.

The contest is also an opportunity for VCS to encourage a deepening of our students’ sense of place, vital to their future efforts to protect what today’s art is celebrating. An image is worth a thousand words, but the process of creation could be worth even more: the inspiration, reflection, discussion, and above all, dedication shared by a generation who will inherit these natural wonders and the existential challenges they face.

Click here for more info on how to participate in the 2022 contest, and don't miss the 2021 Winners' Gallery!

love it. protect it. mv
     A community art project to celebrate open space

Our first-ever community arts & ideas project, “love it. protect it. mv” is a celebration of nature, open spaces, and our sense of place as an island. Thank you to all who helped build this amazing collection over the past year! 

View all the amazing photos, paintings, drawings, poetry and more at our Instagram page, or just click over to our "Shorelines" gallery for one particularly impressive collection of work.

"From the High Dune," painting by Kib Bramhall for "love it. protect it. mv"

Take Back the Tap

In an ongoing effort to reduce the pollution and waste associated with bottled water served in disposable plastic bottles, our Take Back the Tap initiative has already brought water bottle refill stations to 18 locations across the Island, with many more locations currently in progress or anticipated for the future. These machines dispense chilled, filtered water — for free, and faster than than buying a bottle from a store or vending machine. Many thanks to our generous donors who have funded the Take Back the Tap refill stations, and also to the other organizations, such the YMCA, the MV Hospital, and Felix Neck, who have installed refill stations on their own.

Local Businesses: Would you consider joining the Take Back the Tap initiative? Would you like to be featured on the MV Tap Map? Please read more here, and then fill out the form if you are interested in joining this inspirational community effort to reduce plastic waste on our Island. Thank you! 

Refill stations are currently operational at the following locations: Edgartown School, Edgartown Town Hall, MV Boys & Girls Club, Felix Neck, MV Regional High School, YMCA, MV Arena, Oak Bluffs Library, Oak Bluffs School, MV Hospital, Tisbury School, West Tisbury Town Hall, West Tisbury Library, Agricultural Society, West Tisbury School, MV Public Charter School, Chilmark Community Center, Chilmark School, Tribal Community Center

Make the Most of Your Outdoor Adventures with VCS Books

Edible Wild Plants of Martha's Vineyard

A beautifully illustrated guide to our wild bounty, Linsey Lee's Edible Wild Plants of Martha's Vineyard features descriptions of plants and their habitats along with fascinating information about their use, including traditional folklore and medicine.

Walking Trails of Martha's Vineyard

Head outdoors, leave the phone behind, and enjoy the tranquility with the new 5th edition of the ever-popular Walking Trails of Martha's Vineyard. Will Flender's pocket-sized comprehensive guide to Vineyard conservation lands includes trail maps, description of the protected properties and other valuable information.

Both books can can be 
found on the shelves of many Island retailers, as well as at our office at the Wakeman Center off Lambert's Cove Road. Or, you can order using our donation website and we will mail it to you ($5 shipping charge will be added). 

Retailers and other locations that have historically stocked the book include: The Bunch of Grapes, Edgartown Books, Alley's General Store, Morning Glory Farm, Polly Hill Arboretum, Fo'c'sle Locker (Menemsha), Cronig's, the Felix Neck gift shop, the M.V. Museum, and the Allen Farm store.

Read more about these books and other VCS offerings at the Publications page.

Video: 20/20 Clarity for Conservation

If you are interested in learning more about recent happenings at VCS and conservation efforts on the Vineyard more broadly, the presentation by 
Executive Director Brendan O’Neill at our 2020 Annual Meeting is a good starting point. Beginning at about minute 17 of the Zoom recording of the meeting, Brendan reflects on some of the Island’s conservation milestones and our present-day challenges. Thanks to all who joined us for that meeting, as well as our in-person return in the summer of 2021! 

Video: David H. Smith Lecture at Polly Hill Arboretum

The Polly Hill Arboretum hosted VCS Executive Director Brendan O'Neill for their August 2018 David H. Smith memorial lecture. Brendan reflected on decades of conservation successes and setbacks on Martha’s Vineyard, and spoke to the challenges we face in the next half-century. During more than 50 years of conservation work, VCS has helped preserve some of the island’s most beautiful and iconic places—including Polly Hill’s arboretum. 

Connect • Reflect • Protect

In our 50th anniversary year, we launched the Connect • Reflect • Protect initiative to strengthen the bonds between our human and natural communities, such that the next half-century may be even more successful than the last. 

Read more about the broader purpose and history of Connect • Reflect • Protect, and below, view some of the highlights of what we’ve been doing recently to spread the message of conservation.

The "Bring Your Own Bag" Bylaw

Six-for-Six! With the near-unanimous vote in Oak Bluffs, the BYOB bylaw has now been passed overwhelmingly in all six Island towns! Check out the newspaper coverage: Oak Bluffs, and the 2016 votes in Chilmark, Edgartown, Tisbury, and West Tisbury.

As the bylaw rolls out (at different times across the towns), stores will be prohibited from giving out thin-film plastic bags at checkout. Stores may provide paper bags containing at least 40% post-consumer recycled content, or thick, truly reusable bags made of any material. Of course, the real objective of the initiative is to reduce all forms of waste, so please remember to BYOB! Please follow the links below to learn more about the new bylaw.

Background          FAQ          Bylaw Text

Why not use something made to last, instead of something made to be garbage?

Plastic Waste Reduction

Vineyard High School Students Chip in One Bottle at a Time

Congratulations to the students of the MV Regional High School, who in just the first week of school saved over 1800 disposable water bottles from the waste stream thanks to the recent installation of two bottle refilling stations at the school. The machines, which dispense cold, filtered water similar to a traditional water fountain, are so convenient that now almost every student is carrying a reusable water bottle.

VCS is working to expand our plastics reduction campaign from the recently passed plastic bag ban to other creative solutions that actively reduce pollution and waste. Schools are an especially sensible place for these bottle filling stations because not only are they reducing waste every day, they are instilling a positive sense of pride in reducing waste for young people. The first two filling stations were installed over the summer as a pilot program to test the waters, and so far it has been hugely popular – we have now secured funding to take the project Island-wide!

The VCS Island Adventure

VCS is reaching out to Island youth with a new questing adventure. Kids accumulate points by choosing activities and questions from our Island Adventure Guide, and in the process connect with new places to love and explore on the Island, reflect on something new or interesting about the outside world, and become inspired to help protect and nurture that world.  ­

While learning and exploration are their own reward, prizes will be aw
arded to all who finish the quest.
Best of all, it’s completely free!

Brochure for Homeowners on Lawn Fertilizer Regulations

During the 2014 Town Meetings, voters of all six Island towns approved a new bylaw that would regulate the sale and use of lawn fertilizer. Importantly, the regulations apply to everyone – homeowners as well as professional lawn care companies. 

The bylaw, intended to protect our waters by reducing nutrient pollution, was created by the MV Boards of Health incorporating input from the MV Commission, other elected officials, local landscapers, golf course managers, UMass Extension scientists, and many members of the community, including VCS. While the new rules are thorough and well-considered, and not especially onerous in what they restrict, they are also not necessarily simple to understand for the average homeowner. 

Therefore, to help spread the word about how to comply with the new bylaw while maintaining a healthy, non-polluting lawn, VCS has prepared a new informational brochure. Look for it in Island garden supply stores this spring, or contact VCS directly for a copy. Also, please do let us know if you would be interested in helping spread the word around your neighborhood; we can provide as many copies of the brochure as you need.

View the brochure online!

Many thanks to the MV Boards of Health, the Polly Hill Arboretum, and Michael Loberg for partnering on this project.

Land Protection and Legal Defense at the Moshup Trail Heathlands

Victory at the Supreme Judicial Court Secures Conservation Gains

Environmental legal defense is a necessary part of the Vineyard Conservation Society’s mission. For more than a decade, VCS has fought to defend the moorlands of Moshup Trail in Aquinnah against developers intent on building a subdivision access road through this fragile and rare resource. These wild moors have been eradicated in more than 90% of their historical range, due largely to land development. The primary threat to heathland habitat is “fragmentation” in the form of road building and house construction.

More on the recent SJC ruling and history of legal defense at Moshup

Winter Walks: Conservation and Geologic History of the Gay Head Cliffs

As a tribute to one of the founding acts of the Vineyard Conservation Society, in our 50th year we kicked off the annual Winter Walks series with a return to the Gay Head Cliffs. In 1965, VCS collaborated with the Town of Aquinnah to win a National Natural Landmark designation for the Cliffs. Since that time, VCS has helped conserve many other parcels of open space, family farms, and natural habitats, but the Gay Head Cliffs will always remain one of the most iconic and powerful reminders of what is special about this Island.

One of those special aspects of the Vineyard ― on full display at the Cliffs ― is our unique geological history. Saturday’s walk was scheduled to coincide with an extra-low tide, in an effort to get a better look at the rapidly-eroding glacial deposits of the area. One of the interesting aspects of the Cliffs is that a wide diversity of geologic eras are visible in the exposed strata. Former VCS Executive Director and amateur geologist Bob Woodruff lead the walk, joined by Fred Hotchkiss, Director of the Marine & Paleobiological Research Center in Vineyard Haven.

Recaps and slideshows of our Winter Walks can be found at the Events page.

Climate Change: 

     Building an Island Understanding

For over a decade, VCS has made climate change awareness and education an organizational priority.
In 2012, VCS was honored to host environmental experts Bill and Margot Moomaw. The Moomaws delivered an engaging and informative presentation, discussing everything from climate change impacts to energy efficiency improvements for homeowners, all centered around a vision of how to "live deliberately."

Watch the presentation online, or for the full VCS perspective on the local impacts of global climate change, head to our climate change page, which features newspaper commentaries from VCS board and staff, an extensive report on the science of GCC, storm inundation maps, two more videos and much more!