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Almanac Archive for Feb. 27, 2012

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Quote of the Week
"In America, alas, beauty has become something you strive to, and nature an either/or proposition -- either you ruthlessly subjugate it, as at Tocks Dam and a million other places, or you deify it, treat it as something holy and remote, a thing apart, as along the Appalachian Trail. Seldom would it occur to anyone on either side that people and nature could coexist to their mutual benefit"
--Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods

What a Difference 2½ Months Makes
A concise photo essay of Wasque, Chappaquiddick

by Dana Gaines

November 26

February 10

Click images to enlarge

Conservation Calendar


Wednesday, March 7, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Vineyard Haven.
Free gently worn clothing at the Christ United Methodist Church (Stone Church). Re-use beats recycling any day. (Also on Sat., 9:00 - 11:00). For more info, call 508-693-4424.

Polly Hill Winter Walk

Saturday, March 10, 10:00 am at the Polly Hill Arboretum.

Observe back patterns, tree architecture, and winter flowers and fruits in the ever-changing "off season." Walks begin at the visitor's center and run about an hour. Free. For more info, see website or call 508-693-9426.

Protecting Tisbury's Land and Water
Tuesday, March 13, 7:00 pm at the Vineyard Haven Library.

Join Tisbury officials for a panel discussion of how decisions are made regarding conservation priorities. For more info, call 508-696-4211.

Winter Kids' Programs

Nature Program for Home Schoolers
Tuesdays, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Sassafras, Aquinnah
Spend the day outside, doing activities and playing games that build a connection to nature and each other. For ages K-8, $45 for walk-ins. Bring a lunch and water bottle. See website for more information.

Alpaca Junior Discovery
Sundays, 9:30 to 11:00 am, at Island Alpaca, OB
Feeding, barn chores, and more. For ages 8 and up, $25 ($20 for accompanying adults). Pre-register at 508-693-5554. For directions and more information see islandalpaca.com.

Little Farmers
Mondays, 3:30 to 5:00 pm, at the FARM Institute, Katama

Join Meredith every Monday to collect eggs, visit the sheep and make a healthy snack. For ages 5 - 7, $15. Call 508-627-7007 x103 to register.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Local News

A Walk in the Woods' Woods

Frances Newhall Woods Preserve with Fisher Pond visible in background

Join VCS for the finale of this year’s winter walks series, Sunday March 11 at the Frances Newhall Woods Preserve. The walk begins at 1:00 and will last approximately 2 hours, with Liz Loucks from The Nature Conservancy and Brendan O’Neill from VCS leading. From West Tisbury, proceed up North Road approximately 1 mile and look for VCS signs on the left. Call the VCS office for additional information, 508 693-9588, but note that the office is closed on weekends. Please dress for the weather.
The 512-acre Woods Preserve is private land protected through the gift of a Conservation Restriction to The Nature Conservancy (TNC). VCS has led annual supervised public walks on the property since its permanent protection in 1991. The CR protects miles of scenic roadside views and the imposing morainal ridge line visible from all over the Island, as well as about one-half mile of the Mill Brook watershed. The Brook is the major freshwater tributary to the Tisbury Great Pond and home to a population of the rare American Brook Lamprey (Lampetra appendix), recognized by conservation biologists as an indicator species of high water quality. By helping to secure water quality, the CR also protects drinking water supplies and the viability of the economically important shellfish resource in the Pond.
Located at the margin where the Island's glacial terminal moraine gives way to rich outwash plain soils, the Woods Preserve represents a large, intact ecosystem that has offered managers a rare opportunity to practice ecosystem-level analysis and biological study. At least eight distinct natural communities, ten different soil types, more than 200 plant and animal species, and more than 60 bird species have been documented to date. The size and diversity of the Preserve has allowed TNC to conduct research and monitor the consequences of natural events like the caterpillar devastation of recent years, as well as the impacts of various management techniques on this macro-level.

For the story of the preservation of the property and the history of the new Agricultural Hall, see VCS website.

Other News

Big Oil Backing Off of Climate Denial?

Skepticism, invaluable to scientific progress, can be overdone by the public (from the "Understanding Science" series of U.C. Berkeley)

It takes a lot of cash to maintain that peculiar style of balance portrayed in mainstream news coverage: that despite the fact that 97-98% of climate scientists accept the basic climate change consensus, to be fair we must give equal time to both sides to “debate the controversy.” In recent years, the world’s largest oil companies and allied interest groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute, have provided a lot of the funding for groups devoted to “climate skepticism.” Those groups in turn promote the ideas of the remaining 2-3% of climate scientists (along with anyone else in the public eye, such as TV weather forecasters), from funding their research programs to ensuring their voices are heard frequently and loudly.
A recent leak of fundraising documents from the Heartland Institute, a public policy nonprofit, provides an inside look at how one group works to undermine the public’s understanding of the scientific consensus. One example: providing $200,000 to create a new curriculum for public schools, in hopes of combating the “alarmist perspective” students have been receiving. (Sounds a lot like teaching the controversy of evolution in biology class.) There’s more interesting material than can even be touched on here, so please click over to the NY Times article above, a good summary, and Brad Plumer’s blog at the Washington Post, which breaks out five cogent observations from the documents. (One example: he explains that these groups don’t necessarily corrupt individual scientists, their mission is more to amplify the voices of the few who already agree with them.)
Continued at VCS website, 2nd column

We Play by Different Rules: The Heartland Leak, Cont.

Media balance in the modern era (from the "Understanding Science" series of U.C. Berkeley)

An interesting and unfortunate subplot (which is threatening to become the main plot) to the Heartland leaks is the authenticity of the documents, and how they were acquired. By his own (belated) admission, the leaker was well-known climate scientist Peter Gleick, who (according to his statement) sent deceptive emails to the Heartland Institute in an attempt to determine the veracity of a document he had received from an anonymous source. In return, he received the rest of the leaked materials, eight documents related to budgets and fundraising strategy. What Gleick did was unethical (although he has apologized, unlike the person or group who stole emails in the “Climategate” scandal), but the information he collected is no less valid because of how it was obtained.
What has legitimately confused the matter, though, is that one of the documents that Gleick leaked – the original paper from the anonymous source – is almost certainly a fake, and a fairly obvious one at that, containing over-the-top language such as “effort will focus on providing curriculum . . . effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.” All of the other documents are almost surely authentic, as determined by follow-up press interviews with Heartland officials and their donors; further, Heartland has acknowledged that they sent the documents, though they have refused to officially confirm or deny their accuracy (other than the fake one).
Continued at VCS website, 2nd column
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Copyright (C) *2012* *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.

Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.