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Almanac Archive for May 19, 2014

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Quote of the Week
. . . we have long recognized that "charity" may constitute more than "mere alms giving."
. . . by holding land in its natural pristine condition and thereby protecting wildlife habitats, filtering the air and water supply, and absorbing carbon emissions, combined with engaging in sustainable harvests to ensure the longevity of the forest, NEFF engages in charitable activities of a type that may benefit the general public.
--New England Forestry Foundation vs. Town of Hawley, ruling of the MA Supreme Judicial Court
Conservation Calendar

Plants, People, and Opportunities

Wednesday, May 21, 10:00 am to noon, West Tisbury.
Hear about volunteer opportunities at the Polly Hill Arboretum with executive director Tim Boland and other staff. Participants will tour the plant collections, review Arboretum history, and learn what goes on behind the scenes at PHA. Free and open to all. Call to register, (508) 693-9426.

Guided Walk
Saturday, May 24, 9:30 to 11:00 am, Chilmark.
Take a hike with Sheriff's Meadow Foundation through their Middle Road Sanctuary in Chilmark. Free, no reservation required. Bring water and appropriate footwear. For more info, call (508) 693-5207.

Kids' Planting Events
Saturday, May 24
Oak Bluffs Library, 11:00 am
Celebrate spring by planting seeds in the Children's Room. Ages 2+ with adult, call (508) 693-5377 for more info.
Aquinnah Library, noon
Come plant the Pizza Garden, a container garden that will yield the ingredients for an August pizza party. Call (508) 645-2413 for more info.

Wild Edibles: Plants and Mushrooms of the Vineyard
Saturday and Sunday, May 24 - 25.
Felix Neck hosts author and expert forager Russ Cohen for a weekend of programs on how to identify, prepare, and sustainably harvest wild edibles. Lecture Saturday from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the MV Reg. High School, followed by a "ramble" at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00. Cost is $10 for the lecture and $35 for the field trip ($5 and $25, respectively, for members), registration is required

Nature's Nest: Sassafras Program for the Little Ones

Fridays, 10:00 am to noon, Aquinnah.
Nature program for newborns through 5 years old, accompanied by parent. Donation by choice. To RSVP, and for more info and directions call (508) 645-2008.

Wee Farmers

Saturdays, 9:30 to 11:00 am, Katama.
Visit the animals and help plant the Friendship Garden at the FARM Institute. For ages 2-5, must be accompanied by adult. $15 per session. For more info, see website or call (508) 627-7007.
 
In Season Recipe
Herbed Orzo

Needs some color . . . how about GREEN!

One of the earliest harvests of the season comes from the perennial herbs that are just waking up from the winter. Fresh growth of mint, sage, thyme, chives and oregano is sprouting up from the soil and available at farm stands across the island. Island Grown Schools, our local Farm-to-School program, has named these perennial herbs as their Harvest of the Month for May.
 
Any of these herbs will work in their simple fresh recipe for herbed orzo from chef Robin Ledoux-Forte. Try substituting quinoa for a gluten-free alternative: test audiences (students at the Edgartown School) found it excellent!
 
Monday, May 19, 2014
Local News

Art of Conservation: Winners Announced!

Contestants, friends, and the Island art community gather to enjoy the Art of Conservation

Participants in the first VCS high school art contest were honored May 10th with a special reception at the MV Film Center for the opening of the Art of Conservation showing. Winners in each of the four categories took home $100 gift certificates to DaRosa’s or Educomp. First place in sculpture was awarded to Austin Chandler, painting to Hadley Chapman, photography to Kylie Hatt, and drawing to Lucy Thompson. Special distinctions were awarded to Samantha Bettencourt, Emilia Capelli, Beatriz Da Costa, Bean Haller-Hiser (twice), Henry Jephcote, Adelaide Keene, Sabrina Reppert, and Caroline Roddy. Read more about the judging and winning entries at our website.
Island Towns United in Effort to Control Nitrogen Pollution

At last Tuesday’s Town Meeting, Aquinnah voters approved a new set of regulations on the sale and use of lawn fertilizer, joining the other five Island towns whose meetings occurred earlier this spring. Having one set of standards Island-wide is essential to effectively address the impact of nitrogen pollution on our coastal ponds, for the simple reason that many of these bodies of water receive inputs from more than one town. But it also greatly simplifies implementation -- consider the alternative, where landscaping companies are switching out chemicals and changing application rates as they cross town lines.
 
It is an accomplishment of environmental protection, advocacy, and community action worth celebrating – and one whose success could not have been confidently predicted, since anything can happen when success rests on passage at six separate town meetings. It’s a sensible set of regulations, with the added benefit of avoiding an automatic imposition of less locally-appropriate state regulations. For more information on the new fertilizer bylaw itself, see the MV Boards of Health.
Other News

A Legal Affirmation of the Public Benefit of Conservation Land

Environmental and land protection groups secured an important legal victory last week, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a strong ruling in support of the property tax exemption for conservation land. The specific issue in question was whether a parcel of woodland owned by the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) was being “occupied by it for the purposes for which it is organized.”
 
The parcel is located within the Town of Hawley, who in taking the concept of “occupy” very literally (and a bit anthropocentrically), argued that since NEFF had done little to encourage public access on the property (there was very little signage, for example), the land was not being sufficiently occupied by people, and thus not worthy of a charitable tax exemption.
 
The Court disagreed, finding that the conservation group does occupy the land for its intended purposes, and that those purposes do, in fact, benefit the public: cleaner air and water, wildlife habitat, carbon uptake, sustainable logging, etc. Although the ruling simply reinforces the status quo, it’s an important finding for all land conservation efforts in the state. While the specific tax bill in the NEFF v. Hawley case was quite small, the higher property values in the eastern part of the state (and the Vineyard!) would result in crippling tax liabilities for conservation groups had the exemption been undermined.
Climate Pessimism: The False Excuse of "Inevitability"

The Thwaites Glacier, part of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Photo from NASA.

The complete loss of a major portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet over the next few centuries now appears inevitable, according to a recent study out of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UC Irvine. It’s an important finding, though not unexpected by the scientists themselves. However, the media covered it with unusual enthusiasm for an environmental story, often featuring smart, well-explained articles mismatched with overly alarmist headlines implying that this, finally, is the evidence that climate change is real.
 
So what is the significance of the specific finding in this case? It’s nothing so dramatic as vastly raising our expectations of sea level rise in the next few decades. Since the ice sheet’s collapse is due to warmer water flowing around and under it, the study is more evidence that ocean temperatures are rising – even in the southern ocean, which has been somewhat shielded from global warming.
 
But we already knew that. More important is that we now understand we have purchased yet another “inevitability” to bestow upon our grandchildren. We’ve written here many times that a moderate amount of climate change and sea level rise is coming over the next few decades and there’s nothing we can do today to stop it – rather, the whole point of reducing carbon emissions is to reduce (or reverse) impacts in the second half of this century and beyond. To that, we can now add the knowledge that there is another amount of unstoppable sea level rise, set in motion by our actions over the past century, to come over the much longer term.
 
The most important thing, though, is that this is not a reason to throw up our hands in despair, nor cause to get to work on an ark. As with the unavoidable sea level rise over the next few decades, this new problem is not insurmountable. It will be costly, but humanity can adapt to several feet of rise over several centuries. But the time has come to act to reduce our emissions today, before we create any more of these “inevitabilities.”
 
Submit your conservation news to: almanac@vineyardconservation.org

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Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.
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