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Annual Meeting of the Membership & Board

June 23, 2022
The Grange, West Tisbury

Featuring the premiere screening of:
On Our Watch

Directed by:
Ollie Becker

Produced by:
The MV Film Festival & 
Vineyard Conservation Society

The upcoming short film "On Our Watch" is an engrossing tale of our Island's coastal ponds, their vital importance to natural systems, the threats they face, and what Islanders are doing to protect them for future generations. Please check back in coming weeks for details on what is sure to be a very special VCS Annual Meeting!

- Past Events -
Nature as Inspiration

An Environmental Film Festival

Memorial Day Weekend: May 26 - 29

This Memorial Day weekend, the Nature as Inspiration environmental film festival returns with eight new screenings to enjoy, along with special events, chats with directors and local experts, and more.

As a fitting prelude to our first film, the 2022 Sundance award-winning Fire of Love, please join us Thursday night at 6:30 for an Opening Night reception in the Film Center lobby. Enjoy the volcanic lava cake and bubbly libations, catch up with your MVFS and VCS friends, and don't forget to check out the winning works from this year's Art of Conservation. Please see the Film Center website for the full schedule, and to purchase tickets or an all-access pass.

Now in its eighth year, this annual collaboration between VCS and the MV Film Society has brought over a hundred thought-provoking films to the Island, encouraging reflection on humanity's relationship with the natural world. We hope to see you this weekend for some Nature as Inspiration!

Climate Action Week!

May 8 - 14

The Climate Action Task Force (a working group of the MV Commission) has created this special week of activities to educate, motivate, and inspire our local community to take action into their own hands. Join us for a week of events, workshops, tours, food, films, music, and more!

Keeping it Local with Bad Martha

May 12, 5:00 pm

Relax on the patio at Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery while sampling local beer and charcuterie boards. Bad Martha Manager Mia Benedetto and Brewer Cal Scarfone will share the story of how they keep it local: supporting, and being supported by, other local businesses in sourcing local ingredients, and reducing carbon emissions through reduced transportation. In addition, guest speakers will include Lisa D. Foster, reusable bag entrepreneur and author of the newly released bestseller Bag Lady, and Samantha Look of VCS. The event will be outside, weather permitting; otherwise under the covered porch and inside the open barn.

Hidden Gems in West Tisbury Village

May 14, 9:00 am

Open space makes possible the rural character and pastoral landscape of West Tisbury that has long been a defining characteristic of the town. Protected open space is also vital to mitigating climate change. With numerous farms, a busy town center, and the Tisbury Great Pond all in close proximity, agriculture and conservation have always been deeply intertwined. That's why, forty years ago, the Vineyard Conservation Society began working to preserve the agricultural heart of West Tisbury through a series of permanent conservation restrictions (CRs).
Saturday's walk will highlight several of these CR properties, located surprisingly close to both the town center and the Tisbury Great Pond. The story of how these landowners inspired one another to protect their land, and the depth of the generosity to do so, is a great example of how we might continue to strengthen our climate resilience and community character by recognizing and prioritizing the critical need for land protection. With the Island currently facing the twin pressures of climate change and rapid development, protecting our open space is more important than ever.

We plan to start at the 12-acre parcel where in the late 1970s Tom and Helen Maley granted one of the first CRs recorded on Martha's Vineyard. That restriction conserves otherwise developable uplands and wetlands adjacent to the Mill Brook. From there we will continue to Brandy Brow, high ground near the Mill Pond, which was donated to the town in the 1980s by the Woods family. The walk will also include a CR donated in the 1990s by Jane Newhall, protecting her 12 acres on Parsonage Pond, and a small CR on the pond donated by Jeff Dando. Finally, we will pass by the CR gifted by Fred and Harriet Woods in 2005, which protects 12 acres of pasture hidden behind the homes on Music Street – fields that have been grazed for hundreds of years, and today remain in active agriculture.

Climate Week Finale Event
Plus: Art of Conservation Winners Announced!
May 14, 10 am - 2 pm

The finale Community Celebration on Saturday, May 14 at the Grange will feature a range of climate action information booths from emergency preparedness, health & wellness, conservation groups, native plants, coastline history, aquaculture, Wampanoag representation, and more. There will be giveaways, art & children’s activities, a film screening hosted by the MVFF, aquaculture & raw bar, an electric vehicle fleet, original music created just for the occasion by Molly Conole and Mark Lovewell, student speakers, and a presentation on the MV Commission's Climate Action Plan.

Fitting for the 2022 edition's theme of Climate Change, we are thrilled to announce that this year’s Art of Conservation winners will be presented during a brief awards ceremony during the finale event. Please join us at the Grange Hall at 11 am to congratulate the students and view the first showing of their work, on display throughout the event, along with educational activities, food, music, and much more (details here).

Eight years ago, VCS launched an art contest to encourage our Island’s high school students to deepen their connections with nature and the habitats that sustain it. With the support of teachers from MVRHS and Charter School, the Art of Conservation contest has grown over the years, bringing into the fold ever more diverse media, creative writing and poetry, music, and most recently, the contributions of middle school students as well.

The Art of Conservation show will also be exhibited from May 26-June 19 at the Featherstone Center for the Arts' Feldman Family Artspace at the MV Film Center, and at Mocha Motts during the month of September.  

Retreat from the Shore: A Critical Conversation

May 9, 5:30 - 6:30 pm

Sea levels are rising. Soon, they’ll rise even faster. Is it time to retreat from the shore? How do we decide where to adapt and where to retreat? What’s going to happen to Beach Road, or the hospital? 

Join VCS and Bluedot Living magazine for this moderated conversation with climate planners and scientists. We will discuss beach and salt marsh loss, projects that have successfully adapted to coastal change (Squibnocket and the Gay Head Lighthouse), explore ideas, and take audience questions.

Jamie Kageleiry, Vice President of Bluedot Living, At Home on Earth, will be our emcee for the panel discussion, featuring Liz Durkee, Climate Planner for the Martha's Vineyard Commission, 
Ben Robinson, of the MV Commission and Tisbury Planning Board, and Emma Gildesgame, Climate adaptation scientist for The Nature Conservancy. 

Want to Volunteer? Sign Up Here!

This year's beach list includes:

Aquinnah: Lobsterville, Tribal Beaches, Philbin
Chilmark: Lucy Vincent, Menemsha, Squibnocket

Edgartown: Felix Neck, Fuller St. Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Norton Point, South Beach (Left & Right Fork), State Beach (Bend in the Road), Wasque Point (Chappy) 

Oak Bluffs: Eastville Point, North Bluff (Pier) Beach, State Beach (at Little Bridge), Town Beach (Steamship dock to Pay Beach and Inkwell)

Tisbury: Lagoon Pond Landing, Owen Little Way, Owen Park, Tashmoo Beach, Tashmoo Landing (Lake St.), V.H. Harbor waterfront area (SSA all the way to Shell Station)

West Tisbury: Cedar Tree Neck, Lambert’s Cove, Long Point

Local organizations returning this year to work at designated beaches include the MV Bank, Lagoon Pond Association, Friends of Sengekontacket, Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, Tisbury Waterways Inc., MV Surfcasters Association, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, The Church of Latter Day Saints, MV Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby Committee, Junior Girl Scout troops, Brownie troop, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Felix Neck, Island Clean Up Project, Harborview Hotel, and The Trustees. 

Special thanks to the DPW’s from Tisbury, OB and Edgartown, the MV Refuse District and Bruno’s for taking care of all the beach trash, and to the Vineyard Transit Authority for providing free transportation for anyone cleaning a beach!

Check out our Beach Clean-Up homepage for highlights, photos, and thirty years worth of great memories! 

Winter Walks Return

It's time for a little good news . . . the free VCS Winter Walks series is back! 

Join your friends at VCS for the always fun and informative Winter Walks series. Get outdoors, take in the Island's scenic beauty, and learn the conservation history of some of our local ecological treasures. 

This year's Winter Walks program will feature a diverse collection of properties that VCS has worked over the years to conserve, with a special emphasis on private properties whose habitat value has been permanently protected through the use of Conservation Restrictions.

Due to ongoing concerns surrounding Covid-19, we must limit the total number of participants. Registration is required, with priority given to current VCS members. So contact us soon! Please register online here, or email us with your name and the number of guests.  

Walks take place the second Saturday of the month and begin at 10:00 am

November 13

Hidden Gems of West Tisbury's Town Center

December 11

The CRs of Mill Brook, West Tisbury

January 8

Woods Preserve, Chilmark & West Tisbury

February 12

Katama Farmland, Edgartown

March 12

Moshup Trail, Aquinnah

Love it. Protect it. MV.

Gallery Show and Events at Featherstone

June 7 - 27

In response to last year’s events, VCS launched a social media based community art project titled “love it. protect it. mv.” The goal was to provide an opportunity to recognize the importance of nature, and express our feelings of gratitude for and connection to those spaces where nature takes center stage. Now, as we near the culmination of the project, VCS has partnered with Featherstone Center for the Arts to host a curated in-person show.

This June, please join VCS and Featherstone for the "love it. protect it. mv" show, celebration of nature, open space, and our sense of place as an island. We hope to see you at one or more of three special events (as well as at the VCS Annual Meeting, see below) occurring during the show's run. The selected works will be on display in the Francine Kelly Gallery at FCA's beautiful property in Oak Bluffs from June 7th - 27th.  

All "love it. protect it. mv" events are free, but capacity is limited. Please call or email FCA to register in advance, at (508) 693-1850 or featherstone@featherstoneart.org

June 9th @4: Poetry reading of selections from "love it. protect it. mv"

June 13th @3:30: Awards honoring "The Art of Conservation" school contest winners

June 16th @4: A discussion of nature, advocacy, and art

Annual Meeting of the Membership & Board

June 23rd, 5-7 pm

Featherstone Center for the Arts / Zoom

Please join your VCS friends on June 23rd from 5:00 to 7:00 pm for the Annual Meeting of the Membership and Board of Directors. We hope to see all of you for this hybrid event, either in-person at Featherstone's beautiful campus in Oak Bluffs, or virtually via Zoom (please email for Zoom info).

In the interest of simplicity and safety, this year we are asking Members to B.Y.O. refreshments, and a blanket or chair, for this gathering under the trees. We will meet by Featherstone's outdoor stage behind the Art Barn at 5:00, with the business portion of the meeting (where Members vote on the slate of Directors) beginning at 5:30. Following that, we will welcome special guest speaker Emily Molden, Executive Director of the Nantucket Land Council, for a dialogue on island conservation issues with our own Brendan O'Neill.

The "Love it. Protect it. MV" gallery show will serve as an inspirational background, highlighting the importance of nature and open space to us all. See above for details!

The Earth Day Beach Clean-Up

For more info, check out the Beach Clean-Up page

20/20 Clarity for Conservation
Virtual Annual Meeting
September 9th, 5:30 pm (EST)

Members and friends of VCS, please join us on Wednesday, Sept. 9th at 5:30 pm (EST) for our Annual Meeting of the Membership and Board of Directors. This year’s meeting will feature a short presentation by Executive Director Brendan O’Neill, reflecting on some of the Island’s conservation milestones, and looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the future. While voting on the slate of Directors will be limited to the membership, the meeting is open to the public. We hope to see you all there!

The 28th Annual Earth Day Beach Clean-Up

Joining Together to Work Apart, to Protect our Island Environment

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2020 "socially distant" Earth Day Clean-Up! 

At this time of isolation from friends and coworkers, and profoundly upset daily routines, it is more important than ever to get outside and take in the natural world. Outdoors we see, smell, and hear the rhythms of nature beating on, undisturbed. For a moment, the song remains the same.

Due to the ongoing need to keep our community safe through social distancing measures, we changed plans for this year's Earth Day Beach Clean-Up. Rather than coordinating one big day of action, and the risk of crowded beaches that would bring, this year VCS encouraged everyone to independently clean our Island's beaches – as well as the trails, sidewalks, roads, and anywhere else your outdoor travels take you – during the entire month of April.

Click here for more about this annual tradition

Ancient Ways & Grey's Raid

February's Winter Walk will be an exploration of ancient ways and nearby conservation lands that lie between Lambert's Cove and State Road. The area was known by its native inhabitants as Chickamaug (later Anglicized to Chickemoo), an Algonquin reference to the weir fish trapping that once thrived at Onkokemmy Bay – itself known today as Lambert's Cove. 

Recently designated as protected ancient ways by the MV Commission, Shubael Weeks Road and Red Coat Hill Road mark the site of our own local Revolutionary War history. In September of 1778, British General Sir Charles Grey anchored 47 warships containing 4,333 troops off Vineyard Haven harbor. After bringing his troops ashore, and marching them along an old way running past the residence of local Selectman Shubael Weeks, General Grey seized this high ground west of Tashmoo. All told, 315 head of cattle and 10,574 sheep were expropriated from Martha's Vineyard in what would come to be known as Grey's Raid.

Pilot Hill Farm Walk & History

January's Winter Walk was a visit to the 180-acres of hills, fields and beaches of Pilot Hill Farm in Tisbury.

Family History: Where Farm Meets Sea
Part of Tisbury’s north shore west of Lake Tashmoo, Chappaquonsett likely gained its English name due to the area’s (relatively) high elevation of 120 feet. Pilots of sailing ships would have found it to be a useful reference point as they navigated the crowded and dangerous Vineyard Sound, a bustling coastal shipping route in the days before the creation of the Cape Cod Canal.

For one navigator, Pilot Hill was not just a reference point, but home. The former owners of the farm, Columbus and Nora Iselin, operated a working dairy farm from the 1930s until their deaths in 1971. During the 1940s, Columbus commuted daily from the Vineyard to his job as Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (For more on the Iselin family and the history of Pilot Hill Farm, see this account by PHF historian Patricia Carlet.)

Conservation History: A Limited Development Plan

When the property changed hands in 1976, zoning would have allowed the construction of at least 200 houses: more than 100 building sites were available, each potentially with a main house and guest house. Fortunately, the Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF) was able to come to the rescue with a “limited development” plan. Sunday’s walk leader (and former VCS Board President) Rob Kendall, along with former VCS Executive Director Tom Counter, led the planning process for an innovative solution that would slash the development’s density while ensuring benefits for conservation and housing. VOLF’s final plan allowed for 22 market-rate residential sites, each limited to one house within a designated building zone, and five affordable sites reserved for Island residents. Today, 60 acres are in active farm use, and permanent conservation restrictions cover more than 75 acres, including most of Smith Brook and 1,400 feet of beach.

Walk leader Rob Kendall with three former residents of Pilot Hill Farm

Walk & Create
Featherstone & VCS

Click here for more photos from our December Winter Walk!

Featherstone Center for the Arts was founded in 1980 to develop community through the arts. Their 6.5-acre facility is adjacent to more than 200 acres of Land Bank holdings at the Southern Woodlands (conserved in 2004), one of the last large undeveloped pieces of land in Oak Bluffs. Protection of the Southern Woodlands was a protracted effort, an interesting and dramatic conservation success story.

Winter Walks Return to State Forest

The first Winter Walk of the 2019-20 season was a return to the Manuel Correllus State Forest.

     Storm-Damaged Trees Soon to Become Outdoor Classroom

An exciting new project is underway at the Island’s largest conservation property, where the Friends of Correllus State Forest are working to create a beautiful outdoor classroom space. Inspired by the ancient marketplace pavilion pictured at right, and built with timber salvaged from storm-damaged pitch pine, white pine, and spruce, a new shelter measuring 36 x 24 feet (see drawing) will soon provide students the chance to learn about and experience firsthand the sandplain ecology of the State Forest.

There are many to thank for this truly collaborative project, including: engineer Michael Granger for design work (including the drawing linked above), Michael Berwind for milling work, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation for assistance with logging and milling, the state Dept. of Conservation and Recreation for cooperation throughout, and last—but certainly not least—Bill Seabourne and his Building Arts students at the high school, who will be cutting and shaping the timbers for the pavilion. 
The Friends are still seeking financial support for the pavilion project, as well as a planned Interpretive Center to follow. If you would like to contribute, please contact the Permanent Endowment at (508) 338-4665 or via their website.  

Climate Bazaar & Author Talk

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim speak on Thomas Berry: A Biography

"This is a book one has waited impatiently for: some of our finest environmental historians of religion telling the epic intellectual and human story of Thomas Berry. Most biographies illuminate the past, but this one helps chart the course for our future."  --Bill McKibben

Thomas Berry (1914–2009) was one of the twentieth century’s most prescient and profound thinkers. As a cultural historian, he sought a broader perspective on humanity’s relationship to the Earth in order to respond to the ecological and social challenges of our times. The first biography of Berry, this book illuminates his remarkable vision and its continuing relevance for achieving transformative social change and environmental renewal

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim teach at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Yale Divinity School, where they direct the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. They worked closely with Thomas Berry for over thirty years as his students, editors, and literary executors and are the managing trustees of the Thomas Berry Foundation.

Tucker and Grim’s presentation should provide fresh and powerful perspective to help each of us find our voices as we face some of the most pressing environmental issues in human history.  

The event was co-sponsored by VCS and the West Tisbury Congregational Church and included an informative "climate bazaar" featuring Island conservation organizations. 

Annual Meeting of the Board & Membership

Sailing Camp Park, Oak Bluffs

This year's Annual Meeting, held for the first time at Oak Bluff's Sailing Camp Park, featured a thought-provoking 
presentation by our special guest, Wesley Look: 

“Now or Never: Federal, State, and Community Actions to Address Climate Change”

An expert in climate change policy, Wesley is currently affiliated with two excellent environmental organizations, Environmental Defense Fund, and Resources for the Future. For more information on the meeting, please contact our office. To learn more about the local impacts of climate change, see the VCS Climate Change page

Nature as Inspiration

The 5th Annual Environmental Film Festival

The "Nature as Inspiration" environmental film festival returns this Memorial Day weekend, marking the fifth year of the collaborative effort by VCS and the MV Film Society to share 
with the Island community 
inspirational and thought-provoking films on humanity's relationship with the natural world. 

For four days, we will combine environmental film screenings, discussions, and art created by Island high school students for the VCS art contest, The Art of Conservation. Each film will be followed by Q&A discussions with experts, community members, and special guests. A special opening reception is planned for Thursday night at 6:30. 

The festival is also the opening show for the winning works of the 2019 Art of Conservation high school art contest. There will be a special awards ceremony for the students at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, and the artwork will be displayed throughout the festival in the Film Center's Feldman Family Artspace.

For the full schedule, tickets, and more, visit the the MV Film Society!

The Art of Conservation

Opening Show and Awards Presentation

Join us at 
3:30 on Saturday, May 25 at 
the MV Film Center for a special event honoring our Island’s talented young artists
: the awards ceremony and opening presentation of The Art of Conservation. The annual art contest, first launched by VCS in 2014, encourages local high school students to reflect on the value of nature, what it means to them, and to express themselves through a variety of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, and digital design. We see this as an opportunity to deepen the sense of place among our young adults and connect them to local environmental issues.

Follow the links below to view the amazing artworks from previous years 
and learn more about the Art of Conservation!

Financial support for the Art of Conservation comes from the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council

The 27th Annual Earth Day Beach Clean-Up

And more about the Beach Clean-Up at our Earth Day page

Recycling Demystified

In light of recent local changes, and the upheaval in the global recycling market, we know that much of the public is confused about what is or is not recyclable (and where, and how). In March, VCS and the Green Team of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury teamed up at the West Tisbury Library for a presentation on how our recycling system really works — and how it could work better. 

Scenes from Spring Point

Thanks to all who joined us for a brief winter beach clean-up during our February walk at Spring Point, a a hidden gem of pristine unspoiled beach on Chilmark's North Shore. Click for photos. 

A History of Agriculture at Thimble Farm

Our first Winter Walk of the New Year was an educational collaboration with Island Grown Initiative at their Farm Hub, located at the historic Thimble Farm. A good turnout of about 35 hardy folk ventured out into the cold for a brisk walk around the farm loop trail, a visit to a frozen Little Duarte's Pond (pictured), and a side trip to the site of the former Chicama Vineyard, now returning to its natural state through the recolonization of native shrubs and wildflowers. Led by Farm Hub director Matthew Dix, the interpretive component of the walk included comments from Matt, as well as Brendan O'Neill and Jeremy Houser from VCS, on conservation and natural history of the surrounding lands, current farm operations including hydroponic greenhouse production, and updates on current efforts to reduce and better manage the Island's food waste, including composting pilot projects at Thimble. 

Once part of a larger farm owned by the Elisha Smith family, the land at Thimble Farm has been in active agricultural use for centuries. More recently, it was home to the Whippoorwill Farm CSA for many years. A series of actions led by farmer Andrew Woodruff and his CSA members beginning in 2006 (including the purchase of a conservation restriction by the Land Bank) ultimately led to the permanent protection of the property and its purchase by Island Grown Initiative in 2011. Read more about this historical hub of Island farming at IGI's website

Collaboration at Waskosims Rock

VCS involvement at Waskosims, an area located in the heart of the Mill Brook Watershed in Chilmark and West Tisbury, began over 40 years ago with the sponsorship of a study to test the feasibility of permanently protecting the land. Over the years, VCS advocacy fended off various subdivision plans, and established a protected Special Place designation for 22 acres, including Waskosims Rock itself. In 1990 the Land Bank stepped in, purchasing 145 acres of the property for $3.5M, conserving the land in perpetuity. Since then, MVLB acquisitions have expanded the Waskosims Reservation to nearly 185 acres.

Read more on the ecological features and land use history of the property, as well as how it came to be saved from a much different fate than what we see today.
The MV Land Bank is a public governmental entity created for the purpose of acquiring, holding, and managing protected lands. The Vineyard Conservation Society is a private non-profit membership organization pursuing its environmental protection mission through advocacy, education, and land preservation.

Winter Walking Through History: Chickemoo/Chickamaug

For our first Winter Walk of the 2018-2019 season, we set out from the VCS home base at the Wakeman Conservation Center to explore the network of trails around the fields, woods, cranberry ponds and bogs surrounding the Center, as well Duarte Pond and The Nature Conservancy's Hoft Farm. 

A Revolutionary History: The 240th Anniversary of Grey’s Raid

The earliest known inhabitants of the area called this place Chickamaug or Chickemoo, an Algonquain reference to the weir fish trapping that once thrived at Onkokemmy Bay -- today known as Lambert's Cove. 

However, later inhabitants -- European settlers and their descendants -- coined the name "Red Coat Hill Road" in response to an unwelcome visit from the Old World. In September of 1778, British General Sir Charles Grey anchored 47 warships containing 4,333 troops off Vineyard Haven harbor. After bringing the troops ashore, and marching his men along an old way running past the residence of local Selectman Shubael Weeks, General Grey seized this high ground west of Tashmoo. All told, 315 head of cattle and 10,574 sheep were expropriated from the island in what would be later known as Grey's Raid.

This year marks the 240th anniversary of Grey’s Raid.

Conservation Outlook 20/20: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

The Polly Hill Arboretum hosted VCS Executive Director Brendan O'Neill for their August 2018 David H. Smith memorial lecture. Brendan reflected on decades of conservation successes and setbacks on Martha’s Vineyard, and spoke to the challenges we face in the next half-century. During more than 50 years of conservation work, VCS has helped preserve some of the island’s most beautiful and iconic places—including Polly Hill’s arboretum.

Microplastics in the Ocean Environment

Annual Meeting of the Board & Membership

The 2018 Annual Meeting of the VCS Board & Membership featured special guest Jessica Donahue, research assistant at Sea Education Association (SEA). Drawing on SEA's 30 years of data on marine plastic debris (the largest such dataset regarding the North Atlantic in the world), Jessica discussed the global problem of plastic pollution in the marine environment, in particular the microplastics floating on the surface. Topics covered included where microplastics accumulate, what the sources and inputs are, and how data are collected. Her talk focused on the unanswered questions, common misconceptions, and possible solutions – including local initiatives to reduce our plastic footprint.

Jessica Donohue holds a B.S. in environmental geology from Binghamton University, a M.S. from the University of Rhode Island in environmental science/hydrogeology and has a background in science education outreach. Her current research is focused on how various polymers behave and degrade in the marine environment, and variability in the composition of microplastics in time and by region.

Break Free from Plastic

Past workshops from our Breaking Free from Plastic series. See top for what is up next!

Homemade Food Hacks
Make it yourself and skip the packaging

We’ve become so accustomed to grabbing what we need from the supermarket shelves that we’ve forgotten that many packaged foods, such as bread, tortillas, crackers, pasta, granola bars, yogurt and hummus, are all quite easy to make! Along with great taste, when you do it yourself you avoid the plastic packaging – as well as the processing and preservatives.

DIY Natural Cleaning Supplies
Chemical-free cleaning

In supermarkets and drugstores there are aisles and aisles full of highly specialized cleaners, decorated with chemical warnings on their labels . . . and all packed in plastic. Learn about inexpensive, easy-to-use natural alternatives which can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Leave with product recipes and your own glass spray bottle of natural all-purpose cleaner!

Zero-Waste Wardrobe
Selecting, thrifting, minimizing, mending, and recycling

Natural fabrics—such as cotton, silk and wool—are made of animal or plant-based materials, while synthetics like polyester, rayon, acrylic and others are produced entirely from chemicals. The demand for polyester fabric, which is essentially a form of plastic, has increased by over half since 1980, making it the single most used textile. The average American disposes of 82 pounds of textiles each year, mostly polyester, which will not biodegrade in a landfill. By selling/donating clothing and buying secondhand, you help the environment by not adding to the waste heading to the landfill. 

Exploring Your Sense of Wonder

In January, VCS teamed up with Sense of Wonder Creations for a combination Winter Walk and Craft Day. We started our adventure near West Chop in Vineyard Haven with a short walk on the shore, collecting supplies for creating nature-inspired crafts back at the Sense of Wonder studio. See more photos!

Quenames & Quansoo Winter Walk

A hardy band of walkers kicked off the 2017-18 Winter Walks series with a morning walk through the landscape surrounding Quenames Cove and Black Point Pond. The walk was led by naturalist and birder Soo Whiting, whose family has continuously occupied the Quenames farm for more than 200 years.  

If you missed it, check out the photos from the walk!

Breaking Up with Plastics
at the
Living Local Harvest Festival

The annual Living Local Harvest Festival was founded by four Island organizations — VCS, the M.V. Agricultural Society, Vineyard Energy Project, and Island Grown Initiative — to promote sustainable living on our island by encouraging local food production and the local economy, renewable energy, and resource conservation.

This year's festival featured another event in our ongoing plastics reduction campaign. "Breaking Up with Plastics," with guests Tyson Bottenus (editor, Ocean Watch Magazine) and Clint Richmond (Mass. Sierra Club), our own Samantha Look and Nina Carter Hitchen, and moderator Heather Goldstone of WCAI, discussed plastic pollution and what you can do to help.

Global Environmental Threats:

How Medical Models Can Help us Understand Them

On July 26, 2017, Dr. Eric Chivian, founder and former director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, presented a talk on recognizing and addressing global environmental threats. His lecture touched on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, a topic of great importance to the Island community.

In 1980, Dr. Chivian co-founded the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. During the past 26 years, he has worked to involve physicians in the United States and abroad in efforts to increase public understanding of the potential human health consequences of global environmental change, and in 2008 was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Dr. Chivian is the senior editor and author of Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, named "Best Biology Book of 2008" by Library Journal. He currently directs a new nonprofit, the Program for Preserving the Natural World.

Annual Meeting of the Board & Membership

The Annual Meeting of the VCS Board and Membership was held Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at the West Tisbury Library. This year's meeting will feature a very special treat, a presentation by Jesse Ausubel, Director of Rockefeller University’s Program for the Human Environment (and long-time VCS science advisor), on the potential for environmental DNA (aka eDNA, or "naked DNA") to radically transform the way we understand the wildlife in our water.

Naked DNA in My Sea Water

. . . including results from Tisbury Great Pond and Look Pond

by Jesse H. Ausubel

Have you ever wondered who else has been swimming in your favorite body of water? Thanks to a new sampling technique, the collection and analysis of environmental DNA, we can now narrow that question down to species -- without having to take a single fish out of the water.

Environmental DNA (eDNA), also known as loose, extracellular, or naked DNA, results from the break-up of cells. It is continually cast off, yet doesn't persist long before breaking down, so the recent presence of many aquatic organisms can be reliably detected by looking for these DNA fragments. Monitoring  eDNA could supplement -- or even someday supplant -- traditional sampling methods, many of which can be time-consuming, expensive, and destructive to the very wildlife we seek to better understand.

The 25th Anniversary Earth Day Beach Clean-Up
April 22, 2017

See the photos from last year's clean-up!

Protect Wildlife, Beautify Your Island, Celebrate Earth Day, and Kick-Off Spring — All in One Great Family-Friendly Event

Read more about this community tradition at the Beach Clean-Up page!

This year's beaches:

Aquinnah: Lobsterville, Philbin, Tribal Beaches
Squibnocket, Menemsha, Lucy Vincent
Fuller Street, Lighthouse Beach, South Beach (Left & Right Fork), State Beach (Bend in the Road)

Oak Bluffs: Eastville Point, State Beach (Little Bridge), Town Beach (SSA to Inkwell)
Tisbury: Meet at Owen Park or the town landing on the Lagoon; volunteer leaders will then send people on to the nearby beaches, including Grove Ave Beach, Hines Point, the Lake Street landing, Tashmoo opening, Owen Little Way, and the VH harbor.
West Tisbury: Cedar Tree Neck, Lambert’s Cove

Special thanks to our sponsors:
M.V. Savings Bank   |   Harbor View Hotel

Josh and Angela Aronie | Cronig’s Market | Dippin' Donuts | Lucky Hank’s

Scottish Bakehouse | Sharky's | The Trustees | Tyson Foods | Vineyard Grocer

and our volunteer group leaders:

Church of Latter Day Saints, Cub Scout Packs 90 & 93, Friends of Sengekontacket, Girl Scout Jrs. Troop 69246 and Brownie Troop 66207, Harbor View Hotel, Lagoon Pond Association, MV Savings Bank, MV Surfcasters, MVY Radio, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, Squibnocket Association, Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, 
Tisbury Waterways,
 Town of Chilmark, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Brian and Caroline Giles, Bruce Golden, Bill Randol

Postponed: Winter Walk at Frances Newhall Woods Preserve

Update: following postponement due to weather, we are looking into rescheduling if possible. Stay tuned!

Join VCS for a return to the ever-changingFrances Newhall Woods Preserve. Located across the towns of West Tisbury and Chilmark, the 512-acre property provides one of the largest intact ecosystems on our island, including at least eight distinct natural communities, ten different soil types, and more than 200 plant and animal species.

Tough footing: Walks at the Woods Preserve often traverse areas where shrubby vegetation, mowed or burned, stiffly pokes up from the ground. So wear strong-soled shoes or boots, and we suggest leaving dogs at home – in previous years, sore paws have led some to be carried out by their human companions!

VCS has offered guided walks on the Woods Preserve since its protection in 1991, when the owners, Edwin Newhall Woods and Jeanne Woods donated a permanent Conservation Restriction (CR) to the Nature Conservancy (TNC). Upon the Woods’ death, the land was bequeathed to TNC and the CR was conveyed to VCS.

The walk will last one to two hours, followed by cider and cookies. Please dress for the weather, and keep any dogs on leashes. Parking is off North Rd. about one mile from the West Tisbury end; look for VCS signs and flags on the south side of the road. For additional info, please contact our office.

Winter Walks Return with Trips to Flat Point Farm & Morning Glory Farm

Our first winter walk of the 2016-17 season was a visit to Flat Point Farm. This beautiful piece of farmland, located directly on the Tisbury Great Pond, was saved from residential development just a few years ago through the combined efforts of the landowner, neighbors, the Land Bank, and VCS. Today, the farm raises beef and lamb, egg-laying chickens, and dairy goats, who provide milk for making cheese and artisanal soaps. 

The second walk was a wintry stroll through the farm fields of Morning Glory and the conservation lands beyond. The walk was led by long-time owner and operator of the farm (and new VCS president) Jim Athearn. The relationship between VCS and the Athearns dates to the early 1980s partnership (also including the town, the state, the Land Bank, and the previous owners) that succeeded in preserving the land on which the farm now sits, guaranteeing its farming future in perpetuity. Click here to read more about the conservation history of this iconic Island farm. 

VCS has been sponsoring free guided walks for thirty years; they are traditionally from 1:00 to 3:00 pm on the second Sunday of the month from November through March. 

Photos and stories from our past Winter Walks!

October 1: Living Local Harvest Festival

In support of this year’s theme of “Reduce—Reuse—Recycle,” and in anticipation of this winter’s implementation of the new plastic bag reduction bylaw, the VCS table at the Living Local Harvest Festival featured activities and information on how we can reduce our Island’s reliance on these disposable shopping bags. 

As always, the festival brought together great local food, music, animals, games and activities for kids of all ages, and educational presentations and demos on a variety of sustainability issues, this year including local recycling and “The Life of Trash,” renewable energy, and a composting workshop roundtable. In addition Cape Light Compact offered an opportunity to turn in old dehumidifiers and room air conditioners.

The Living Local Harvest Festival, an annual c
elebration of Island community spirit that has now grown into a major event and community treasure, was originally founded by four Island non-profits, the MV Ag. Society, Vineyard Energy Project, Island Grown Initiative, and VCS, to promote sustainable living on our island by encouraging local food production and the local economy, renewable energy, and resource conservation.

Conservator Appreciation Event

In 2016, our annual summer “Thank You” event for VCS Conservators was held at the Chilmark home of Dave and Karen Davis. The Davis home is a beautiful example of smart design that fits into the surrounding landscape rather than dominating it, and features modern technology to maximize energy efficiency. 

VCS Conservators are donors who give $1,000 or more per year, as well as those who have donated land and conservation restrictions.

At right: Peaches ripen on the trees of Jesse Ausubel's home orchard, the site of a previous Conservator Event.

VCS Annual Meeting 
Capacity Campaign Launched, and the Photography of Neal Rantoul

The 2016 annual meeting of the board and membership of the Vineyard Conservation Society was held at the West Tisbury Library. After three years at the helm, outgoing Board President Richard Toole impressed upon the group the importance of community action in the face of modern environmental and economic challenges. After Richard's introduction, and a short video recounting the historic and present role of VCS,
Linda Jones and Larry Hohlt announced the launch of a major fundraising campaign. To learn more about our Capacity Campaign, please contact our office.  

The business portion of the meeting was followed by a presentation of Island photography by Neal Rantoul. Recently retired (following 30 years as head of the Northeastern University Photo Program), Neal is a life-long Vineyard resident who now devotes his efforts full-time to making new work and bringing earlier work to a national and international audience.

Neal’s photography boldly illustrates how the Island is continually changing – due to both the unpredictable power of nature, as seen in our dynamic shoreline, and the rapid pace of development and other human impacts. In describing his work earlier this spring, Neal draws an analogy to photographer Eugene Atget’s work documenting the industrialization of Paris at the turn of the 20th century: “I felt in the late 80s and early 90s a sense of urgency about the Vineyard. Such rapid growth and building. I felt that areas unbuilt should be photographed so there would be a record.”

Nature as Inspiration
The 2nd Annual Environmental Film Festival

The second edition of our collaboration with the Martha's Vineyard Film Society combined
environmental films, discussions, and art across four days at the MV Film Center. The films were followed by Q&A sessions with experts, community members, and special guests. In addition, the winning works from our 3rd annual high-school art contest, the Art of Conservation, were on display in the Feldman Family Art Space. 

The Earth Day Beach Clean-Up 
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Read more about this community tradition at the Beach Clean-Up page!

Winter Walks: Scenes from the Edgartown Harbor

Winter Walks: Preserving Local Farming at the Allen Sheep Farm 

The second walk of the season was a visit to the iconic Allen Farm on South Road in Chilmark. The view from the farm out over the south shore is one of the most spectacular on the Island. 

Allen farm has seen animal grazing and human habitation for hundreds of years, all under Allen family stewardship; today, owners Clarissa Allen and Mitchell Posin carry on that tradition. Twenty-five years ago, 22.5 acres were preserved through an agreement among the owners, VCS, the Town of Chilmark, Mass DPW, and the Land Bank. Twenty years ago, VCS facilitated an additional gift of a Conservation Restriction (CR) on an abutting parcel of 5.3 acres. In recent years, the farm installed a wind turbine on the north side of the property under a state program where green energy projects are fast-tracked for farms and schools.

Read more about our other walks, or just check out the photos!

Living Local with the Vineyard Conservation Society

At this year’s Living Local Harvest Festival, VCS unveiled a bold plan to pursue the passage of a plastic bag ban in all six Island towns. Our goal is to put the new bylaw before voters at the 2016 Town Meetings. This would not mean an end to all plastic bags (the ban targets only those thin bags with integrated handles typically given out at the point-of-sale), but it is a meaningful step toward less land and marine pollution, and will help reduce the amount of plastic in our waste stream. Read more about what VCS is proposing and why.
The broader purpose of this year’s VCS Living Local program was to engage the community, especially our young people, in thinking about our consumption habits and resource conservation. If you missed it -- and your chance to decorate your own reusable canvas tote -- check out the photos above (or click here).  

Fresh Paint: The VCS 50th Birthday Celebration

In honor of the 50th anniversary of VCS, thirteen Island artists (see list below) c
reated works in support of, and inspired by, the conservation efforts of the Vineyard's only local environmental advocacy and land protection organization.

Many thanks to all who attended our 50th Birthday Party and everyone who helped make it happen, including our wonderful auctioneers, musicians, volunteers, staff, and sponsors.

An extra special thank you goes out to our participating artists. They not only donated their art to support VCS, but many also invited the public to view them at work!

Valentine Estabrook • Lowely Finnerty • Nancy Kingsley •  Kanta Lipsky
Thaw Malin • Marjorie Mason •  Harry Seymour • Tiffiney Shoquist
Jeanne Staples • Liz Taft • Wendy Weldon • Allen Whiting •  Rez Williams

Artists Painting en Plein Air to Support VCS

Seven of our Fresh Paint artists – Valentine Estabrook, Kanta Lipsky, Marjorie Mason, Tiffiney Shoquist, Jeanne Staples, Liz Taft, and Allen Whiting – invited the public to come watch them create their newest work live, on location. Their technique, known in the artistic community as painting en plein air, can be used to capture the immediacy and power of the natural world where things are constantly changing, or alternately, to communicate the peace and serenity in a particular moment. To all of our wonderful artists,

Thank You!
VCS Annual Meeting: Envisioning the Next Half Century
A special 50th anniversary annual meeting was held at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury (a community treasure VCS had a hand in preserving). We briefly recognized the fifty years of work to protect the land, water, and quality of life on our Island, but spent most of the evening dedicated to a broader discussion about what it means to live sustainably for the next fifty years. Special thanks to speakers John Abrams and Marc Rosenbaum who helped facilitate an engaging conservation discussion.

Nature as Inspiration: The Films of Jacques Perrin

an environmental film festival

The first annual VCS environmental film festival was a rousing success! Hosted and co-sponsored by the MV Film Society, the event featured six screenings of the amazing nature films of Jacques Perrin. Many thanks to event organizer Jesse Ausubel for bringing Jacques and his team to the Vineyard, and to Richard Paradise, whose expertise and hospitality made the festival a joy for all. Special recognition also goes to Jesse for his adept moderation of the excellent Q&A sessions with the filmmakers and local naturalists, artists, and scientists that followed the films.

The Nature as Inspiration festival is part of a broader initiative from VCS called “Connect, Reflect, Protect.” In our 50th anniversary year, VCS is seeking to spark environmental awareness and reflection on the importance of connecting our Island community to the natural world that supports us. With several sellouts and packed houses all weekend – many times packed largely with young folks – there is no doubt that we are one big step further along the path of the Connect – Reflect – Protect outreach initiative.

Thanks to the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, whose grant made this festival possible.

Film Screening: The Island President

VCS in collaboration with the Center for Biological Diversity and the MV Film Society co-hosted a screening of the Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentary film The Island President, the story of Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed’s efforts to raise awareness around climate change issues and protect his island nation from the rising seas. Frostpaw the polar bear, CBD’s climate change mascot, spoke with guests as a special treat!

The screening was part of CBD’s effort to draw President Obama’s attention toward climate change issues during his visit to the Island, and part of their broader campaign in opposition to Federal approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Conservator Appreciation Event
"In the Orchard"

The annual appreciation event for our most generous donors was held at the home of Jesse Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University. (Jesse is also a VCS Board alum and currently our Science Advisor.)

For more information on becoming a Conservator, please contact Signe Benjamin at (508) 693-9588 or via email.

VCS Annual Meeting Double Feature:

Beyond Bees with Paul Goldstein
At the 2013 Annual Meeting of the VCS Board and Membership, guest speaker Paul Goldstein of the Smithsonian Institution presented “Beyond bees: What insect and pollinator diversity tells us about conservation on the Cape and Islands,” a discussion of some of the Island’s unique creatures and habitats. For anyone who missed the meeting, check out the video of Dr. Goldstein’s here.

Rising Seas, Raising Awareness
As a bonus, prior to the meeting former VCS board member Phil Henderson gave an encore of his “Rising Seas” presentation, a look at local impacts of rising sea levels (video here). Phil discussed a variety of issues relating to climate change and sea level rise, but the most attention grabbing element was a series of maps specifically outlining what areas of our island will be submerged in the future. So attention grabbing, in fact, that the Gazette’s coverage of the meeting included small reproductions of the maps on their website.

The original high-res versions can be found at
our climate change page. Depicting areas inundated at both 1 meter (yellow) and 2 meters (red) of sea level rise, the maps paint a stark picture of valuable land and critical infrastructure lost outright in the not-too-distant future. What the maps do not reveal is the much broader area subject to flooding due to storm surges and the ongoing effects of coastal erosion.

Special thanks to Chris Seidel at the MVC for creating the map projections
, and to Dan Martino of MV Productions for producing both videos.

Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life
How can humankind manage to balance our needs for basic shelter and the experience of living in a natural, biotic world? Can it even be done in an urban area, with high population density, or in a rapidly developing rural area such as our island?
In March of 2013, VCS and the M.V. Film Society presented the new film Biophilic Design, which seeks to answer these questions and more.

We were joined at the screening by
Executive Producer Stephen Kellert, who is the co-originator (along with E.O. Wilson) and a primary developer of the Biophilia Hypothesis, a broader theory describing the interactions between humans and nature that draws on biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, and other disciplines. The concepts of biophilia form the underpinnings of Professor Kellert's study of architecture and design presented in the film.

n an effort to dig a little deeper into the world of biophilia, VCS staffer Jeremy Houser recently conducted an interview with Dr. Kellert. Check out the interview to learn more about biophilia in general, Dr. Kellert's efforts to develop a code of ethics drawing on biophilic theory, and even why we are (perhaps unreasonably) afraid of spiders.

Climate Change: Building and Island Understanding

For the last several years, VCS has made climate change awareness and education an organizational priority. This summer, we hosted renowned environmentalists William and Margot Moomaw for a very special presentation at the Grange Hall. The Moomaws shared their insight into both the global context of one of the most pressing issues of our time and the possibilities and benefits of taking action locally to live deliberately and live better.

Video of the presentation is available from Martha's Vineyard Productions.

William Moomaw
is Professor of International Environmental Policy at Tufts University, and the founding Director of the Tufts Climate Initiative. He has authored work for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Margot Moomaw
is a graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health and has worked in the healthcare field for more than twenty-five years. She is now a green design consultant, offering expertise on actions homeowners can take to live better, more sustainable lives.
Green on Screen Film Series

Our collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society -- Green on Screen -- has truly taken flight over the past year. Screenings of films examining a variety of important environmental issues have become regular events at the new M.V. Film Center, recently opened to great acclaim by MVFS founder Richard Paradise.

Where possible, experts with inside knowledge of the film have been in attendance to lead informal discussion sessions after the showing, most notably Jesse Ausubel, who served as a science consultant on Switch, a film about the diverse methods of global energy production, and Stephen Kellert who presented his own film Biophilic Design. Other films, including Green Fire (the story of the great environmentalist Aldo Leopold), Dive (an exploration of food waste and “dumpster diving”), and Last Call at the Oasis (an expose of the global water crisis), featured discussions facilitated by VCS board and staff. Our screening of Chasing Ice, the story of a photographer’s effort to document the disappearance of the Earth’s glaciers, brought a third partner into the collaboration, the local chapter of the global climate advocacy organization 350.org.

Watch for announcements of new Green on Screen films at the VCS website, in our Conservation Almanac, and in the local papers' events calendars.