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.

Plastic Free MV and the Bottle Ban Bylaw

A student group at the West Tisbury School, "Plastic Free MV," has taken a bold approach toward reducing plastic waste in the three towns in which they live: banning single-use plastic bottles. VCS is supporting their effort because it is consistent with the goals of our Take Back the Tap initiative (see below). Click here for more info, including Town Meeting dates, explanation of what would be banned, and the actual bylaw text. 

Updated May 15, 2019: It's a clean sweep! With the passage of the bottle bylaw in Aquinnah, the kids of "Plastic Free MV" have succeeded in all three up-Island towns. Congrats!

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 project, and also to the YMCA, the MV Hospital, and Felix Neck, who by installing refill stations on their own years ago helped to inspire this initiative.



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

Video: Conservation Outlook 20/20



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 Art of Conservation: Connect

2019 marks the fifth year for the Art of Conservation, our annual high school art contest. This year we asked our Island’s young artists to focus on their connections to nature. Read more about the contest and this years theme here, and please join us for the Opening Show and Awards Presentation on May 25th at the MV Film Center. 

Follow the links below to view the amazing artworks from previous years 
and learn more about the Art of Conservation!


Financial support for the Art of Conservation comes from the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council

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

April, 2016 Update: 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.

VCS Books Help Make the Most of Your Outdoor Adventures   

Edible Wild Plants of Martha's Vineyard

There's never been a better time to join VCS than today! 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 habtats, with fascinating information about traditional medicinal and folklore uses.

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 Trails of Martha's Vineyard


We have just received the brand new 5th edition of William Flender's ever-popular Walking Trails of Martha's Vineyard! We're currently working to get it out on the shelves of Island retailers, but if you just can't wait go ahead and order using our donation page (choose the $20 option), or drop by the Wakeman Center for a visit!

Retailers and other locations that have historically stocked the book include: The Bunch of Grapes Book Store, Edgartown Books, Alley's General Store, Cronig's, Brahmhall and Dunn, The Secret Garden, Felix Neck, and the Allen Farm store.

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