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. Click the buttons at left to learn more about us, and please join today!

The Art of Conservation

     Contest Winners Announced!

This Memorial Day weekend, during the Nature as Inspiration film festival, the MV Film Center pulled double duty, serving as the site of the opening exhibition and awards show for the second annual Art of Conservation high school art contest. This year, a new category was added to the original four – painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture – to encompass the diversity of other art forms students could contribute, e.g., collage, video, graphic design, animation, architecture, etc.

First place in painting went to Katherine Reid, first in drawing to Lucy Thompson, first in photography to Jessica Haynes, first in sculpture to Iris Albert, and a first place for digital media was awarded to Curtis Fisher. Special distinctions were awarded to Margaret Joba-Woodruff (painting); Sean O’Malley, Olin Gannon, Tiki Green, and Susanna Becchio (sculpture); and Olivia Smith, Caroline Roddy, Kayla Oliver, Elijah Laikin, and Pearl Vercruysse (photography).

Winning artworks were displayed in the Feldman Family Artspace in the lobby of the Film Center during the festival. If you missed that showing, there will be a repeat at Mocha Mott's in Oak Bluffs for all of July. Or, check them out right here, right now!

This Spring and Summer: 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. Best of all, it’s completely free! ­

While learning and exploration are their own reward, prizes will be aw
arded to all who finish the quest!
 Register today online and we will mail you your own copy of the Adventure Guide -- or please, come by our office and start the adventure today! 

New Brochure Explains 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.

Conservation and Legal Defense at Moshup Trail Heathlands

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 history of legal defense at Moshup and recent Appeals Court Ruling here

Scenes from the Lost Bass Creek

On Feb. 9, 2014 an intrepid group of more than 40 walkers participated in the VCS "Lost Bass Creek" Winter Walk, setting out from the post office parking lot near Five Corners for an exploration of the filled tidal lands of Vineyard Haven
. Read the full story here.

Bass Creek in the early 20th century (at right) and today (below)
A common trait of Living at Sea Level  is for humans to find creative ways to expand our available habitat. One reality of living in a time of rising seas, however, is that these engineered human habitats may be some of the first to be given back to the sea.

Slideshows of some of our other walks can be found at the Events page.

VCS Climate Change Report Featured in Vineyard Gazette

In support of their ongoing coverage of coastal erosion and shoreline change on the Vineyard, the VIneyard Gazette recently ran a story focusing specifically on the impacts of sea level rise due to climate change. Borrowing extensively from the sea level rise portion of our new report on climate change impacts on our island, as well as quotes from author and VCS staffer Jeremy Houser, the story is a nice introduction to the science behind sea level rise and what more we can expect in coming decades.  See our climate change page for more on the report, or view the sea level rise section here.

Note: if printing, be sure to download the .pdf files from our Climate Change page. Print quality from the online viewer can be very poor.

Conservation and Restoration
Renovated Farmhouse Serves as Setting for Conservator Appreciation Event

This year's annual thank-you event for our Conservators was graciously hosted by Jeff Scheuer and Heidi Rotterdam at their home on Tisbury Great Pond. A writer by trade, Jeff contributed the following piece describing the methods and motivations of their home's recent renovation for a past issue of our print newsletter, Vineyard Conservation. All VCS members receive the newsletter (past issues can be read here) twice yearly. For information on becoming a Conservator, please contact our office at (508) 693 9588.

Shades of Green
By Jeff Scheuer

A friend of mine who was passionate about preserving the Vineyard used to say that an environmentalist was “someone who built a house last year.” It’s a weak definition, though; one that speaks only to interests, not to larger arguments or values. Surely it can’t mean we all have a right to do and to build as we please, or that law is the only guide. We’re still responsible for our footprints.

Environmentalism is a prism of many facets, however. It’s partly about conserving what is ancient and good – old things, old ways, nature itself – an idea that isn’t new or unique to this island. But change isn’t always bad, and sometimes it’s necessary. The problem is heedless, tasteless, selfish, and disrespectful change. We’ve all seen it.

We conserve in order to retain our civility in the broadest sense: our connections to the past and the future. Environmentalism is about connections and relationships, not absolutes. And since land and old houses, especially on islands, are inherently limited quantities, and getting more limited all the time, we must balance the imperatives of land, history, community needs, and sustainability.

At least, that sounds reasonable. And I’m generally in favor of balances – which doesn’t mean granting equal weight to all claims. But I’m also an environmental radical, with a lifelong penchant for older and quieter things and places. I just prefer them – period. But I’m also radical in the belief that, whatever balances must be struck, certain things are constant: Nature doesn’t return where it isn’t wanted. Old houses aren’t built anymore, and new ones are often unsightly. Everyone needs both dignified shelter and open space. Continued here, second column

Edible Wild Plants of Martha's Vineyard
Now back in stock!

Back in stock after a long absence, new VCS members can choose to receive a free copy of Edible Wild Plants of Martha's Vineyard by Linsey Lee when they join. This beautifully illustrated guide to our wild bounty of edible plants includes descriptions of plants and their habitats, with fascinating information about traditional medicinal and folklore uses.

There's never been a better time to join than today!

Edible Wild Plants is also available for purchase at Alley's General Store, Bunch of Grapes, Felix Neck, Morning Glory Farm, the M.V. Museum, and the VCS office.

Walking Martha's Vineyard

Head outdoors and enjoy Island tranquility with the 4th edition of Walking Trails of Martha's Vineyard featuring several new trails!

Available for $15 at many Island locations, including The Bunch of Grapes Book Store, Edgartown Books, Alley's General Store, Cronig's, Brahmhall and Dunn, The Secret Garden, Felix Neck, Allen Farm, and the Vineyard Conservation Society office. Or, order through our donation page (by choosing the $20 option) and have it shipped to your door.

Fresh from the Vineyard

VCS Board member Virginia Jones has recently released Fresh from the Vineyard, a cook book to showcase and support Island agriculture and fishing. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book will benefit VCS and the Island Grown Initiative.

You can find the book at many Island stores and farms, including
Bunch of Grapes, Cronig's, Larsen's Fish Market (Menemsha), Allen Farm, Morning Glory Farm, Mermaid Farm, Nip N' Tuck Farm, and Fiddlehead Farm Stand

Curious About Climate Change?
Two locally produced videos help make sense of this complex issue ---

Climate Change:
Building and Island Understanding

For the last several years, VCS has made climate change awareness and education an organizational priority.
This summer, 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."

Video of the entire presentation was recorded and professionally produced by Martha's Vineyard Productions for VCS and MVTV. Click the link below to watch!

An Island in Conflict:
What to do about Climate Change
Longtime VCS friend Marnie Stanton has produced a new video, funded by the Edey Foundation, that looks at some of the most important local climate change issues. Marnie's 15-minute video features an extensive interview with Islanders Chris Murphy and Liz Durkee, along with shorter excerpts from other local opinion leaders. She touches on a variety of issues, but really focuses on the difficult decisions the Island faces as sea level rise and increased erosion complicate the business of coastal planning and managing development. Where should hard armoring of the coast be allowed, and where should we allow beaches to grow and recede naturally? How do we manage the competing interests of private business and property with the public good?

Watch the Video Online