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Almanac Archive 8/15/2011

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“Invasive species damage the lands and waters that native plants and animals need to survive. They hurt economies and threaten human well-being. The estimated damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion – five percent of the global economy.”
excerpt from The Nature Conservancy's website

Conservation Calendar

Global Warming: Plants and Habitats
Tuesday, Aug 16, at 1:00 pm
, at the Old Mill in West Tisbury.
MV Garden Club meeting. Tim Simmons will speak on global warming and its effects on plants and their habitats. $5 admission, free for members. For details, call 508-693-5334.

Flatbread for the FARM
Tuesday, Aug 16, from 5:00 pm
to closing at Flatbread Company.
Delicious pizza, raffle packages and lots of fun in support of The FARM Institute! Proceeds from the sale of each pizza go directly to support The FARM's education programs. Call Cathy at 508-627-7007 for more details.

Wild Edibles and Medicinals Walk

Wednesday, Aug 17 from 10:00 to 11:30 am at the Polly Hill Arboretum.

Join John Forti (Strawbery Banke historic garden curator, ethnobotanist, herbalist and Slow Food Leader), in this hands-on nature walk to better understand our habitat and how it has supported people over history, while gathering wild edibles to create a delicious salad and herbal tea to sample as a group. $25/$15 for PHA members. For more information, call 508-693-9426.

The Last Mountain

Wednesday, Aug 17 at 8:00 pm, at the Chilmark Community Center. 
The MV Film Society presents The Last Mountain, a documentary focusing on the devastating effects of mountaintop coal removal in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley. Director Bill Hanley and supporter Bobby Kennedy, Jr. will be attending. $14 ($7 for Film Society members).

Help Fight Invasive Stiltgrass
Saturday, Aug 27 from 9:30 am to noon, Hoft Farm Field Station.
The Islands Office of The Nature Conservancy is seeking volunteers to help control a new population of Japanese stiltgrass found near the Longview neighborhood and their Field Station on Lambert's Cove Rd. See the press release for more information, directions, and contacts.

Oak Bluffs Open Market
Every Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, Waban Park, Oak Bluffs.
This self-described "fab combination of Farmers Market, Artisan Fair, Vintage Flea Market and Body, Mind, Spirit Fair" takes place every Sunday at Waban Park, across the road from Inkwell Beach (a short walk down Seaview Ave. from the ferry). The Market also features live music from 11:00 to 1:00.

In Season Recipes


Almost all of the ingredients for a fresh summer gazpacho can be obtained locally. There's a well-stocked farmstand on most of the heavily travelled roads, but for the more intrepid, consider taking a backpack, a bicycle, and this guide map from the Island Grown Initiative on a morning farm tour to some less well-known spots.

  • 1 cucumber, seeded
  • 2 sweet peppers (red or green)
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups of tomato juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (optional)
  • Dollop of sour cream as a garnish (optional)
Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put chopped vegetables into a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. Do not over-process!

After the vegetables are processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill. Serve with basil and sour cream, if desired.
Monday, August 15, 2011

Local News

Invasive Species: Ecological Bullies or the Scapegoats of Nativists?

This Saturday, the local TNC chapter battles Japanese stiltgrass (see Calendar), a recent addition to our collection of invasive species. Photo by Liz Loucks.

An uproar that began in the scientific community has recently found its way to the popular press, and now poses a challenge for conservation groups and land managers everywhere: Should we really be trying so hard to fight invasive species? And can we even trust the motivation or judgment of those who do? This piece in the Boston Globe is recommended, as it presents a fairly even-handed account of the controversy (though the counter-argument is relegated to the end).

Without a doubt, our island is no stranger to problematic invaders. The usual suspects occupy the usual locations – Asiatic bittersweet and Multiflora rose dominate roadsides and fencerows – but invasives threaten ecologically sensitive and valuable habitats as well, including our ponds (the reed Phragmites) and the sandplain grasslands near the southern shore (several, including Spotted knapweed and Cypress spurge). Because of the importance of these habitats, a considerable amount of effort from local land managers is spent trying to control them. Consistent with this effort, there is a budding enterprise to spread native gardening and landscaping, an effort which helps strengthen native ecosystems and build resistance to the threat of present and future invasions. Recently, though, the whole idea of “going native” has come under attack. From the Globe article:

. . . underneath all these efforts is a potent and galvanizing idea: that if we work hard enough to keep foreign species from infiltrating habitats where they might do harm, we can help nature heal from the damage we humans have done to it as a civilization.”

But is this so? In the absence of a survey of the opinions of the “ecologists and conservationists” that are the subject of the claim, this appears to just be attempted mind-reading. Others take their telepathic insights to more antagonistic levels. Mark Davis, the lead author of the Nature article (subscription req.) that helped spark the conflagration, sees nostalgia driving the fight against invasive species: “Newcomers are viewed as a threat because the world that you remember is being displaced by this new world.” Finally, some criticisms, such as this Op-Ed in the N.Y. Times, see a connection between efforts to control invasive species and the recent rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in America. Comparing the native species movement with the Minutemen (the militia group that patrols the Southwestern border), the author concludes that “both are motivated — in Margaret Thatcher’s infamous phrase — by the fear of being swamped by aliens.” (Continued at the VCS website, 2nd column)

VCS at the Ag Fair!

Frances Newhall, circa 1910, Woods family collection

This year, Martha’s Vineyard lost several pioneering conservationists: Ozzie Fischer, Jane Newhall, Bob Woods and Jeanne Woods. All of them contributed in important ways to protecting the Island they loved. As an example of their contributions to land preservation, VCS will have a display at the fair recounting the story of the gift of a conservation restriction establishing the Frances Newhall Woods Preserve and its connection to the creation of the new Agricultural Hall.

The fair runs August 18-21, from 10 am to 11 pm (ending at 7 pm on the 21st) at the fairgrounds on Panhandle Rd. in West Tisbury. If you can't make it out to the fair (though we hope you can!), you can read the story at our website.

Walking Martha's Vineyard

From the beach at Menemsha Hills Reservation. Photo by Jodi Hilton.

Some of the less well-known, but most rewarding local adventures can only be accomplished on foot, as is well articulated by Alexandra Styron in the N.Y. Times.
With the passage of time, the cross-island beach walk she recounts may be increasingly difficult to pull off; on the other hand, though, recent trail extensions and easements have opened up new options for spending a day exploring the interior of the island, and even popping out every now and then on a secluded beach, well-hidden from motor traffic. For much more detailed information and color trail maps, check out the new 4th edition of our Walking Trails book, available at The Bunch of Grapes, Edgartown Books, Alley's General Store, Cronig’s, Brahmhall and Dunn, The Secret Garden, Felix Neck, and the VCS office ($15), or online at our website ($20).

State News

Support the Public Lands Preservation Act
From the The Environmental League of Massachusetts:

Recently, ELM and several other organizations sent a letter to all members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in support of the Public Lands Preservation Act. This important bill would put into place commonsense safeguards to ensure that public conservation lands, which are supposed to be protected by Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution, are actually protected. Members of the House of Representatives need to hear from their constituents on this important issue. See the ELM website for explanation of the the bill and contact information for representatives.