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Land Conservation

Waskosims Rock Reservation, Chilmark, permanently protected with VCS help

The Vineyard Conservation Society has been working with families and government agencies to protect land on Martha’s Vineyard since 1965.

The Island of Martha’s Vineyard is about 57,000 acres in size. Conservation efforts over the last century have resulted in protection of about a third of it, but much of the Island remains vulnerable to new development. Only about a quarter of the Vineyard is actually “built out” to the limits of current zoning. Subdivision of remaining vacant land could double existing dwelling units on the island:

The 2014 Land Tally

Total acreage: 57,067

  • Conserved open space: 19,955
  • Wetlands protected through regulation: 3,266
  • Fully subdivided under current zoning: 12,831
  • Existing road rights-of-way: 2,138 acres
  • Available for development or conservation: 7,820
  • Partially subdivided with additional development capacity: 8,892

Acres conserved, by town
  • Aquinnah: 354
  • Chilmark: 3,221 (plus 621 acres of Nomans Land)
  • Edgartown: 7,271
  • Oak Bluffs: 1,118
  • Tisbury: 874
  • West Tisbury: 7,117

All stats from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission

Our concern is the cumulative impact of such land use. Each new structure contributes to habitat fragmentation and the erosion of the remaining open space inventory. More, and bigger, houses means more people, more cars, more pressure on infrastructure, more septic systems polluting our fragile coastal ponds, and more contentious development disputes.

Land in Conservation 

         Learn more about the places VCS has helped protect

Ways to Protect Land

Conservation Restriction (CR)

A conservation restriction (CR) is a landowner's voluntary agreement to restrict development of private land. It is a contract between a property owner and a conservation entity designed to protect the important natural attributes of the land by tailoring what kinds of uses or development, if any, will be allowed to take place in the future.

Mutual Covenants

Where protecting open space and the character of a neighborhood is important to  several adjacent owners, but not of sufficient benefit to the general public to warrant a conservation restriction (CR), a mutual covenant is one way to proceed.

CH. 61 Programs

For many landowners, the pressure of increasing property taxes forces a decision to develop land. Ch. 61 becomes a worthwhile approach for the large landowner who is considering permanent protection at a future date, but needs to ease the local property tax burden in the short term.

          Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR)

The Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program is a voluntary program which is intended to offer a non-development alternative to farmers and other owners of "prime" and "state important" agricultural land who are faced with a decision regarding future use and disposition of their farms. Towards this end, the program offers to pay farmland owners the difference between the "fair market value" and the "agricultural value" of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability.