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Almanac Archive for May 14, 2012

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Quote of the Week

"About half of the nation's waters surveyed by states do not adequately support aquatic life because of excess nutrients... Nutrients have also been associated with both the large hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico ... and the Pfisteria-induced fish kills and human health problems in the coastal waters of several East Coast and Gulf states."
EPA Draft Report on the Environment (2003)

Conservation Calendar

Nursery School Naturalists: Horseshoe Crabs

Thursday, May 24, 10:00 to 11:00 am, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
Join Cristina Pereira for this series introducing young children and their parents to the delights of nature at a hands-on level in an unhurried atmosphere. Each session includes an introduction indoors, story, craft, and a hike, stopping to discover nature's treasures along the way.

For children ages 3-5 with a parent/friend. Younger siblings in strollers/backpacks welcome. Cost is per child - $6 members, $9 non-members - no cost for accompanying adults. Drop-ins welcome, pre-registration preferred. Call 508-627-4850 for more information.

Spring Into Summer at Polly Hill

Saturday May 26, 10:00 am, at the Polly Hill Arboretum
Celebrate the opening of the Visitor Center for the season with Polly Hill's annual Memorial Day plant sale. There will be garden talks, special tours, family nature walks, seed planting for kids, a tree raffle, book sale, and more. As always Arboretum staff will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice on your plant selections. For the full schedule see the event poster.

Other Polly Hill events:

Gardening with a Purpose

Saturday, May 26, 3:00 pm
Following the Spring Into Summer festivities, join Cape & Islands garden expert and author, C.L. Fornari to explore different ways to think about garden design, good plants, and what we gain in addition to a lovely landscape. $10/$5 for PHA members.

Volunteer Information Session
Thursday, May 24, 10:00 am to noon.
People, Plants & Opportunities: Hear about opportunities with Nancy Weaver, Tim Boland, other Arboretum staff. Tour collections. Free. Pre-register: 508-693-9426.

Oak Bluffs Open Market
Sunday, May 27, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Enjoy Sunday in the park by the sea.  The Open Market offers an ever-changing variety of locally grown produce, specialty foods, flowers, indie designers, artisans and vintage dealers. Music from 12 - 2. For directions, see website.

CSA Sign-Up

Whippoorwill Farm
CSA Shares Still Available
Order Yours HERE
Before It's Too Late!

In Season Recipe

Dave's Snickerdoodles*

The secret is out! Always in demand (and frequently available, at least for a few minutes), at VCS events are the snickerdoodle cookies made by board member Dave Nash. Are they still as good when you're not getting in out of the cold after one of our Winter Walks? Or when you're not exhausted after the Earth Day Beach Clean-up? Make them yourself, and see! (Or, if they still don't seem right, it could just be Dave's personal touch!)

Mix until fluffy:
1 cup butter
1 ½ c. granulated sugar
Add 2 eggs and continue beating.

Separately, mix the following:
2 ¾ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda           
2 tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt.
Combine wet and dry ingredients, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Combine 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in a large bowl. Scoop cookie dough in 1 tsp. clumps then roll into a ball and drop into cinnamon sugar mixture to coat.
Bake at 400 degree on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes (chewy vs. crisp). Remove from sheet and cool on a rack.

* (Sorry, no photo -- they don't hold still long enough)
Monday, May 14, 2012

Local News

Help Dukes County Plan its Conservation Efforts

(Contributed by William Wilcox and Kristen Fauteux)
The Dukes Conservation District needs your help. As the local agency responsible for overseeing the activities of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service in our County, we want to be sure the available resources of that agency are directed toward the priority natural resource issues as identified by the residents of the County.

We have prepared an online survey that we believe will provide the basis for revising or refocusing the work program to better apply the NRCS resources to those issues that County residents believe need attention. The survey only requires 10 to 15 minutes of your time.

At this time, the District wants to re-examine the past focus of our program from one that is appropriate at the national level to one that addresses the most critical natural resource issues in our County. The District needs your input to identify local-level, natural resource priorities. Given the limits of NRCS funds and personnel, where do you want us to focus our efforts?

The main topic areas that cover our resources are what you might expect:

  • Open space
  • Agriculture
  • Fishing and shellfishing
  • Woodland production
  • Preparation for climate change
  • Water resource quality

But within each of these there are numerous important issues that we want you to prioritize as the most important priorities for our focus. If you have 10 to 15 minutes to spare, please help us by taking the survey linked above.

For more information on the District, please go to the County website at www.dukescounty.org. At the website scroll down to Regional Organizations and click on Dukes Conservation District.

New Study Seeks to Help Lagoon Pond Help Itself

Large birds such as this Canada goose contribute a relatively small amount to nutrient loading, but sometimes find themselves as scapegoats, perhaps because the larger causes are harder to fix. It would help their case, though, if they didn't look so smugly comfortable in an algae mat.

Last December’s final report from the Mass Estuaries Project indicated that Lagoon Pond is in dire straits, suffering from excess nitrogen loading. Much of the excessive nitrogen is coming from septic systems, which clean and disinfect our wastewater before returning it to the groundwater, but do not remove nitrogen (which is, after all, one of the most common elements on Earth, essential to all life, and harmful only in excess). The ultimate response will most likely require widespread sewering, assuming development continues in the pond’s watershed, which encompasses much of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury.
However, while it may be the only permanent solution to the problem, creation of a new sewer system sufficient in scale to address the problem would be an enormous – and expensive – infrastructure project for which there is currently little enthusiasm. However, there are many inexpensive, or even money-saving, approaches that when pursued together can go a long way to improving water quality in our coastal ponds (including the Lagoon), all while forestalling the need for sewerage. VCS’s Vineyard Lawns campaign seeks to educate businesses and individuals about more environmentally-friendly methods of lawn care and landscaping, and to persuade folks toward the “native is beautiful" perspective. Also, expanding aquaculture efforts is an ecologically sound and economically productive method of improving water quality by using the natural abilities of bivalves to filter nutrients from the water.
Another piece of the puzzle is represented by a new “attenuation” study just approved by the Town of Oak Bluffs. Even accounting for known human inputs, more nitrogen is reaching the Lagoon than should be. Simply put, the freshwater Upper Lagoon Pond is not “working” as it should be. Most freshwater ponds on Cape Cod reduce – or attenuate – the nitrogen content of runoff by at least 50% before passing the water along. For unknown reasons, Upper Lagoon Pond is only attenuating 18% of the nitrogen before the water moves on to the Lagoon. This study seeks to find out why, and what can be done to improve the situation.
Why nitrogen?
Even in the absence of human impacts, coastal waters are naturally high in nutrients. Inputs coming from richer terrestrial soils, both as groundwater and rainwater runoff, move quickly through freshwater systems but collect in sheltered estuaries before being diluted by the vast open ocean. For the same reasons, though, human additions to the runoff, such as septic waste, fertilizers, and livestock manure have very large effects on coastal waters. (It is considerably harder to overnutrify the ocean, though the great dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrates the devastation that occurs when we manage this terrible feat.)
As is typically the case in brackish (and marine) systems, nitrogen is the limiting nutrient in the Lagoon. What this means is that the ecological identity of the place is largely defined by the amount of nitrogen present. When we radically change the amount of a limiting nutrient we change the rules of the game, and often the winners and losers of ecological competition. Species that would otherwise dominate in a higher-nitrogen environment are normally held in check, allowing the characteristic organisms of the salt marsh to thrive. But today we see the impacts of changing nutrient availability everywhere, from the replacement of cordgrass (Spartina spp.) by the invasive reed Phragmites australis, to algae that blooms explosively while awash in abundant nitrogen, blocking light from reaching the eelgrass on the pond bottom, and then, following their binge, depletes oxygen from the water as they decompose, harming animal life as well.
State News

Massachusetts Works to Keep Commercial Food Waste out of Landfills

Food waste and yard trimmings together account for a quarter of all municipal trash sent to landfills (from EPA, U.S. Waste Characterization, 2007)

In Massachusetts, many large institutions, including universities and hospitals, are already composting their organic waste (e.g. food scraps and spoilage, lawn and garden clippings, etc.), an effort that helps divert a huge amount of material from the general waste stream, saving both space in our landfills and their own trash collection expenses, and sometimes even reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (Decomposing organic waste produces methane, a potent GHG, which can be more efficiently captured in modern compost digesters than in landfills.) However, new environmental rules slated to take effect in 2014 would represent quite a bold move in addressing the absurd waste of energy and materials involved in throwing huge amounts of food into landfills: large institutions, including larger restaurants and businesses, would be required to separate out their food waste. All commercial food waste would be diverted to “composting sites and a new generation of specially designed plants that convert waste into energy, heat, and fertilizer.” Read the rest of this potentially very important story at the Boston Globe.
Submit your conservation news to: almanac@vineyardconservation.org

Copyright (C) *2012* *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.

Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.