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Almanac Archive for March 22, 2017

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Quote of the Week
"When knowledge is limited apply a precautionary approach . . . Place the burden of proof on those who argue that a proposed activity will not cause significant harm, and make the responsible parties liable for environmental harm."
--The Earth Charter

VCS Dine-to-Donate

Tomorrow at Offshore Ale!

Offshore Ale hosts a Dine-to-Donate event for VCS tomorrow (March 23). Stop by for lunch or dinner and help protect our Island environment while enjoying good cheer with family and friends.

To participate, you must bring your own copy of the "Dine-to-Donate" ticket to show to your server. You can either print it yourself or show it on your phone, but Offshore's rules prohibit us from passing them out at the event. The alehouse, located just off Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs, is open for lunch from 11:30 to 4:00 and dinner from 5:00 to 8:30. For more info, email VCS.

A Unique Winter Walk

Our final Winter Walk of the season was a snowy outing at the conservation lands near Featherstone Center for the Arts. The family-friendly event brought kids of all ages together to collect "found treasures" from nature for use in the creation of tile mosaics, as guided by Featherstone's Miss Lani.

(See the rest of the photos here 
Conservation Calendar

Birds of Prey Visit the Library

Saturday, March 25, 10:30 am, West Tisbury
Thursday, March 30, 3:30 pm, Vineyard Haven

Learn about ospreys, owls, and birds of prey as Felix Neck brings an exciting free nature program to two town libraries. For kids age 5-12, for more info see library websites (West Tisbury, Vineyard Haven).

Save the Date:
The Earth Day Beach Clean-up

Saturday, April 22, Everywhere.
The 25th Anniversary VCS Earth Day Beach Clean-up will be held on April 22 (this year, the actual Earth Day!) across 25 of our Island's beaches. Learn more about the history of this Vineyard tradition at the VCS website.
Local News

In Oak Bluffs, Bring Your Own Bag Initiative Gets Complicated

At the Oak Bluffs School, students have been decorating reusable bags to share with the community, and to help spread the BYOB message. (click for the full image)

As promised a year ago, this April 11th the citizens of Oak Bluffs finally get their chance to vote on the Bring Your Own Bag bylaw, joining with the other five towns in the BYOB spirit. Unfortunately, this is no fable teaching the value of delayed gratification . . . unless you're a big fan of parliamentary procedure and legal complexity. At this spring's Town Meeting, O.B. voters will have to weigh the merits of two starkly different plastic bag bylaws, each listed as separate warrant articles.

Last year's bylaw, created and sponsored by VCS and then adopted by the other five Island towns, has now been submitted in Oak Bluffs via citizens’ petition. In addition, a new bylaw created by a group of businesses will also appear on the warrant. Procedurally, we don’t yet know how the moderator will handle the confusion of two articles addressing the same topic, so it is crucial that Oak Bluffs voters understand the differences before they get to the Performing Arts Center that night. There are many technical differences, but in short, where the original bylaw effectively and fairly addresses the many problems caused by plastic bag pollution, the article from the business owners proposes a complicated but structurally weak bylaw that would result in: 1) many types of bags in use made of many different compounds, requiring multiple costly and confusing collection/disposal programs, 2) a minimal reduction in the total number of plastic bags used, and 3) the potential for businesses to avoid the bylaw altogether, indefinitely. For more details, please see this flyer created by Oak Bluffs citizen Nina Carter Hitchen. Thanks, Nina!

We Don't Need to Use Herbicide to Maintain Power Lines

As reported in last week’s Vineyard Gazette, electric utility Eversource has recently released this year’s plans for maintenance of power lines, which includes the use of chemical herbicides to control vegetation. There may be land management situations in which responsible, targeted use of herbicides is justified, but in this case we believe it is not truly necessary. For example, simply compare and contrast the challenges presented by controlling invasive species spread across miles of wilderness with the clearing of a narrow right of way surrounded by occupied homes and wetlands. In the latter, the precautionary principle (see “quote of the week” at top left) should take precedence: that where there is a suspected risk to the environment from a proposed action, but a lack of scientific consensus regarding the risk, the burden of proof falls on those who seek to take that action.  
As such, we encourage everyone to sign (and share) this online petition, which will be sent to the company’s senior arborist who is responsible for making final decisions. Further, if you have the time, consider submitting your own comments using the address at the bottom of the Gazette story.

That said, while we do support the general point of the petition – insistence that Eversource use mechanical removal rather than herbicides to control vegetation – we also must point out that the letter’s emphasis on one particular product, the glyphosate formulation Round-Up, reflects an unfortunate misunderstanding of the relative environmental risks of herbicide use – both in Eversource’s current plans, and in general. For starters, as reported by the Gazette, Eversource says they use less glyphosate than any other chemical herbicide. However, this comes as no comfort, because glyphosate is likely less harmful than other herbicides.
It is well-established that Round-Up is toxic to aquatic organisms, but this is due to its so-called “inert” ingredients, soap-like chemicals that improve the herbicide’s effectiveness. The active ingredient glyphosate, which Eversource plans to use in a formulation ("Rodeo") that doesn't contain those toxic additives, is probably less worrisome than the other herbicides they propose to use, such as metsulfuron-methyl, triclopyr, and imazapyr. Further, glyphosate is definitely much less toxic than some herbicides, such as paraquat and 2-4-D, which remain widely used in the United States. Paraquat is restricted to licensed applicators (for good reason!), while products containing 2-4-D adorn the shelves of most anywhere you can buy a garden hose.
None of this is to say that glyphosate is harmless. Positive affirmations that it is completely innocuous, usually coming from developer Monsanto, were always to be taken with a huge grain of chemical salt. Now, in light of recent revelations that Monsanto has been interfering in the tiny portion of research they don’t just conduct themselves, the blunt claims like “glyphosate is not a carcinogen” evoke Orwellian satire. However, based on the research to date, the overwhelming focus on glyphosate as a pollutant is unfortunate.
Today, we live in a world of chemicals, yet a large portion of the most harmful pollution – whether measured by quantity or the certainty of risk – still comes out of our tailpipes and smokestacks. Even as we pull our weeds by hand, we will continue to drive cars and consume electricity. It’s a psychologically inconvenient fact, so it’s probably not good to think too much about it all the time. But every now and then it’s worthwhile to step back for a bit of perspective.
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Copyright (C) 2017 *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.

Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.