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.

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: Discovery

How well do we really know our island? Most days we follow the same routes and routines. To get off the beaten path, or just to observe our daily scene more closely, is to discover things about the Vineyard that will surprise our minds and invigorate our senses. 

Follow the links below to learn more about the 4th edition of our annual high school art contest, The Art of Conservation, and check out the artwork from previous years.


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!