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Almanac Archive for December 7, 2015

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And Let VCS Help with Holiday Gift-Giving
Now through the end of the year, new members and gift memberships will receive their choice of one of three great books: our always-popular guides to the Walking Trails and Edible Wild Plants of the Vineyard, and the special seasonal addition of Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living. Just call our office at (508) 693-9588 or email us to let us know who the membership is for and which book you would like.
Quote of the Week
"And, you know, Science magazine may have its own bias."
--Rep. Lamar Smith, Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and prominent climate change denier, on one of the top peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world.
Winter Walk Snapshots

The first Winter Walk of the season was a wonderful stroll through the woods of Seven Gates Farm. If you missed it, or just want to revisit the "Goat Rocks," see this slideshow
Conservation Calendar

Cape Coastal Conference:
Managing Coastal Risk

Thursday, Dec. 10, 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, Hyannis.
Conference, seminar, and workshop day from the Waquoit Bay Coastal Training Program focusing on climate change and community resilience. Free, but registration required. Agenda and registration at website.

Island Grown Storytime
Thursday, Dec. 10, 10:30 to 11:00 am, West Tisbury.
Guest reader Nicole Cabot shares stories and a love of kale, the Island Grown Harvest of the Month, during regular story time at the West Tisbury Library. Free and open to all ages. For more info call (508) 693-3366.

Public Hearing: North Bluff Seawall
Thursday, Dec. 10, 7:00 pm, Oak Bluffs.
This week's MV Commission meeting is focused on the DRI review of a proposed seawall project to protect the North Bluff in Oak Bluffs from increased storm damage due to sea level rise. Much more info at MVC website.

Winter Walking at the Arboretum

Saturday, Dec. 12, 10:00 am, West Tisbury.
Join Polly Hill staff to explore the Arboretum grounds in the off-season. Winter is when bark patterns and architectural structure become evident as deciduous trees lose their leaves, the conifers stand out with their many textures and shades of green, and even some fruits and flowers appear. Tours run for a little over an hour. Meet at the Visitor Center and dress for the weather. Free. More info at website or (508) 693-9426.

Sustainable Book Club: The Sixth Extinction
Wednesday, Dec. 16, 6:30 to 7:30 pm, Edgartown.
A reading group sponsored by Felix Neck and all six town libraries dedicated to discussing the connections between people and nature. This month's book is Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction (see NYT review). At the Edgartown Library, free, for more info call (508) 627-4850.

Long Point Beach Walk and Ornament Making

Tuesdays, Dec. 8 and 15, 3:00 to 5:00 pm, West Tisbury.
Spend time with friends and family exploring the beach and gather natural craft supplies for ornament making in the Visitor Center afterward. $15 ($10 for TTOR members). For more, see the Trustees' event webpage, or for directions and property info, Long Point webpage.
In Season Recipe
Pickled Kale Stems
Waste no more!

This might be my favorite Harvest of the Month recipe card yet - if only for the possibility to cut down on the huge amount of kale stems that get put in the compost. It's a super-simple quick pickle made from kale stems - check it out!
Local News

A Winter Scene at Allen Sheep Farm

Allen Farm Wetland in Late Winter, painting by Rez Williams (sold at the Fresh Paint fundraiser auction this past summer to benefit the work of VCS.)
Join us this Sunday (Dec. 13) at 1:00 for our second walk of the season, a visit to the iconic Allen Farm on South Road in Chilmark. The exact route is still to be determined, but we know it will be an engaging hike through one of the Island’s most scenic open spaces, known for its spectacular views out over the south shore. Look for the yellow VCS flags near the farm entrance, about 1.4 miles down-Island from Beetlebung Corner, or about 0.7 miles up-Island from the cemetery. We ask that you please leave your dogs at home – it is a working farm, and the presence of even very well-behaved dogs can frighten the animals.
Allen Farm conservation history: Under the stewardship of the Allen family, animals have been grazing at Allen Farm for hundreds of years. In 1991, collaboration between VCS, the Land Bank, the State, and the Town of Chilmark brought permanent protection to the farm. Development rights on a critical 22.5-acre portion were purchased through raising $25,000 in donations, securing grant funding, and the creation of a 10-year installment purchase agreement. The farm’s owners, Clarissa Allen and Mitchell Posin, provided a crucial lift to the process, donating back a substantial portion of the appraised value of the development rights. Clarissa and Mitch also placed a conservation restriction (CR) on an additional 7.3 acres of the farm in 1991, and another 5.3 acres in 1995. In recent years, the farm installed a wind turbine on the north side of the property under a state program where green energy projects are fast-tracked for farms and schools.

Plastic Bag Bylaw Making Progress

Announced at this year's Living Local Harvest Fest, the VCS effort to eliminate the single-use plastic shopping bag is now in full swing. Banning the bags Island-wide will require a bylaw to be adopted by all six Towns individually (an ambitious goal requiring a lot of legwork), but we are happy to report that it’s off to a good start. Selectmen in three towns have agreed to add the ban to the warrant for this spring’s Town Meeting. Edgartown Selectmen did not take a position on the proposed bylaw, agreeing only to put it before the voters, but West Tisbury and Aquinnah are endorsing the article. Three down and three to go!
Taking the push to the Selectmen is resulting in a lot of current newspaper coverage, with good reporting in both the MV Times and Vineyard Gazette. While the newspaper stories are thorough and provide a solid introduction to the issues involved, they can’t possibly answer every question a person might have about the proposed bylaw. So, we’re giving it a try! Please take a look at this FAQ and let us know if you have a question we missed. We’ll be using this document for the next several months as we work to win approval at Town Meeting in spring – and with any luck, we’ll be using it for many months after to educate the public on the newly passed bylaw.
Moshup Trail Legal Defense: LIVE Webcast

For a decade and a half, VCS and others have been engaged in a legal battle to defend the Moshup Trail heathlands from developers seeking to build a subdivision access road through this fragile and globally rare habitat. Tomorrow morning at 9:00, oral arguments before the state Supreme Judicial Court will be streaming live via the Suffolk University Law School.
It has been a long, tangled process that brought this case all the way to the SJC. Tomorrow is a big day, but we are optimistic, having repeatedly won in court up until the most recent appeal was decided in the developer’s favor. Our arguments tomorrow will likely echo those of the dissenting opinion from the recent case, that the finding represents “an extraordinary alteration of traditional principles of Massachusetts law.” Read more about the history of the case at our website, and see the case docket for more on tomorrow’s arguments.  
Other News

"Deflategate" Lawyer now Defending Oil Giant in Climate Investigation

There are so many important climate stories in the news right now, from the ongoing Paris climate talks, to the recent Congressional attack on scientific freedom, it’s hard to choose one to comment on. But on the day after the second ugly loss in a row for the Local 53, let’s go with a slightly under-the-radar story for a look at the equally ugly type of scientific abuse that follows climate change around as tenaciously as our friend Frostpaw the Polar Bear.

In a humorous twist to the legal battle between the State of New York* and Exxon Mobil over whether the oil company lied to its own investors regarding the risk of climate change, Exxon has now added prominent lawyer Ted Wells to its defense. Wells was recently made famous by the “Deflategate” scandal, in which he was hired by the National Football League to lead their investigation into whether the New England Patriots tampered with footballs.
It’s probably a smart move for Exxon. The Reuter’s article rightly notes Wells’ experience and success in high-profile cases, referring to him as a “star” attorney. In addition to representing the NFL and high-profile political figures, Wells has gotten results for Exxon before, helping the company reach a settlement in a major pollution case with the state of New Jersey for only 2.5% of the state’s claimed damages ($225 million vs. $8.9 billion).
But given their current situation, it’s the Deflategate case that should make Wells even more appealing to Exxon. Though he eventually lost on appeal, Wells demonstrated an ability to build a strong case out of dubious science. For the NFL’s investigation, Wells contracted the engineering firm Exponent, viewed by environmental and consumer protection advocates as notorious mercenaries, willing to conduct studies designed to find whatever data is needed to make the client's case. Sometimes that’s the properties of air pressure in footballs, but more typically it’s car safety, toxic waste dumping in the Amazon, or the cancer risks of asbestos and second-hand smoke (non-existent, naturally). So, if Wells likes working with those guys, making Exxon’s climate science look good in court should be a piece of cake.
* Why is the state of New York going after Exxon and not, say, the EPA? Because lying about science to the public is political speech and completely legal, but telling the exact same lies to your investors is fraud. Further, NYS’s securities fraud law is strong enough that it might not even be necessary to prove the deception was intentional.

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Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.