New SMF director looks ahead
Hundreds of supporters and members of Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF) gathered under a tent set up on a beautiful lawn overlooking Menemsha Bight Monday, for the private conservation organization's annual summer benefit.
For Adam Moore, the foundation's new executive director, it was his first public opportunity to meet and speak to people in a largely social setting about his plans for the future of the Island's largest private conservation organization.
Mr. Moore told The Times that the recent controversy concerning Sheriff's Meadow management of two properties appeared to be subsiding. Judging by the turnout - 250 people, according to the Foundation - it appears people remain confident that the organization is on the right track.
Monday, Mr. Moore described his plans for the future of the private nonprofit. But first he addressed the issue that had confronted him soon after he arrived, generated when the Vineyard Gazette reported that SMF had allowed a landscaper to "strip mine" plants from its properties for the benefit of a wealthy West Tisbury landowner, in violation of state regulations.
Mr. Moore said SMF was removing trees and shrubs in furtherance of its management plan goals of restoring meadows and grasslands at the Caroline Tuthill Preserve in Edgartown and the Priscilla Hancock Meadow in Chilmark.
He said the Foundation did not completely comply with Natural Heritage Program regulations or properly oversee the work.
"We have taken steps to prevent future such errors," he said. "You should also know that the photographs in the Vineyard Gazette of sod removal were not taken of a Sheriff's Meadow property, and that Sheriff's Meadow did not enter into any deals with the customer of the landscaping firm which did the work on our properties."
Mr. Moore said he has submitted a five-point plan to Natural Heritage to resolve the matter. "The end result will be beautiful," said Mr. Moore, "and I plan to show these results, and the work in progress, to the press and to the public, because I believe it will build an understanding of how we do habitat management, and the cutting, mowing, burning, grazing, plowing, scarifying the soil - that must be done if we are to allow grasses and other herbaceous plants to grow."
Photo by Alex Bell
Turning to the future, Mr. Moore said he planned to review all of the Foundation's properties "for their ecological and agricultural potential, and for their ability to serve the community. I want to make our properties more welcoming. I want to expand the public access that we offer and connect to the growing network of Island trails. I want to help support Island agriculture. I want to strengthen our connections to the community. We are a local land trust, and we are a community organization."
Mr. Moore said April 2, 2009, would mark the 50th Anniversary of Sheriff's Meadow Foundation. In anticipation of future changes he said, "I plan to review every aspect of Sheriff's Meadow - our articles of incorporation, our bylaws, our deeds, our management plans, the flora and fauna of our properties - and to prepare a five- to ten-year strategic plan for the organization."
"What makes a nonprofit organization great," he said of the potential he sees in the changes he has in mind, "is the same thing that makes a business great, and that is its willingness to brace itself and take risks. With our board and staff and all of you, I look forward to taking deliberate, calculated conservation risks with Sheriff's Meadow, and to stride forward boldly to 50 more years of conserving this Island."
The guest speaker was Professor Richard Lazarus of the Georgetown University Law Center. Professor Lazarus, a seasonal Chilmark resident, provided an overview of the history of environmental law and described the issue of global climate change as the most significant issue facing the next president and other world leaders.