Authors Posts by Nathaniel Horwitz

Nathaniel Horwitz

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The President spoke from a lectern at the Edgartown School before heading to the links Thursday.

President Barack Obama spoke about Iraq and Ferguson from the Edgartown School Thursday afternoon. — By Michael Cummo

President Barack Obama made a brief detour to the Edgartown School just before 1 pm where he made a brief statement on Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri before heading to the exclusive Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Obama addressed progress in Iraq and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri standing behind a lectern in the Edgartown School cafeteria, a blue drape used as a backdrop concealing a mural by elementary school students.

Ferguson has been the site of nightly protests and unrest since a police officer shot an unarmed teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, Saturday night. Police have not yet described the circumstances surrounding the shooting or released the name of the police officer.

Stepping to the podium, Mr. Obama said he wanted to “update the American people on two issues that I’ve been monitoring closely these last several days.”

Mr. Obama said, “First of all, we continue to make progress in carrying out our targeted military operations in Iraq.”

Mr. Obama said that over the last week, the U.S. military conducted humanitarian air drops every night and delivered more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of fresh water to Yezidi men, women and children taking refuge on Mount Sinjar “in a desperate attempt to avoid slaughter.”

Through military and civilian efforts, he said, the situation of the Yazdis had greatly improved. “Because of the skill and professionalism of our military — and the generosity of our people — we broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar; we helped vulnerable people reach safety; and we helped save many innocent lives,” he said. “Because of these efforts, we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it’s unlikely that we’re going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain. The majority of the military personnel who conducted the assessment will be leaving Iraq in the coming days. And I just want to say that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the men and women of our military who carried out this humanitarian operation almost flawlessly. I’m very grateful to them and I know that those who were trapped on that mountain are extraordinarily grateful as well.”

Addressing the political situation in Iraq, he said, “I had a chance to speak to Prime Minister-designate Abadi a few days ago, and he spoke about the need for the kind of inclusive government — a government that speaks to all the people of Iraq — that is needed right now.  He still has a challenging task in putting a government together, but we are modestly hopeful that the Iraqi government situation is moving in the right direction.”

Closer to home he said, “I want to address something that’s been in the news over the last couple of days and that’s the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting. Today, I’d like us all to take a step back and think about how we’re going to be moving forward.

“This morning, I received a thorough update on the situation from Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been following it and been in communication with his team. I’ve already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown, along with local officials on the ground.

“The Department of Justice is also consulting with local authorities about ways that they can maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation. I made clear to the Attorney General that we should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened, and to see that justice is done.

“I also just spoke with Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri. I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now is the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened, and to find a way to come together going forward.  He is going to be traveling to Ferguson.  He is a good man and a fine governor, and I’m confident that, working together, he is going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done and his desire to make sure that public safety is maintained in an appropriate way.

“Of course, it’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.  He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again. And when something like this happens, the local authorities — including the police — have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death, and how they are protecting the people in their communities.

There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting.  There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.

I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.

So now is the time for healing.  Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson. Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done.  And I’ve asked that the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney on the scene continue to work with local officials to move that process forward. They will be reporting to me in the coming days about what’s being done to make sure that happens.”

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A Martha’s Vineyard resident had no idea her willingness to share WiFi would bring State Police investigators to her door.

There are a number of web filters available for concerned Internet users. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The investigation, arrest and indictment in April of Josh Wairi, 27, of Somerville, a Cambridge fifth-grade teacher, on multiple federal child pornography charges began innocently enough last summer on Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. Wairi, a teacher at the Graham & Parks School in Cambridge for nearly two years, visited the home of a friend and former co-worker, identified only by her initials in court documents, whose family owns a seasonal house on Hines Point, a secluded neighborhood in Vineyard Haven. The seasonal residents shared wireless Internet service with a neighbor, identified only by her initials.

Mr. Wairi visited several times last summer on vacation, according to court documents, and unknown to his friend, took advantage of the WiFi service of his host’s neighbor to access pornographic material. Months later, state police investigators appeared at the neighbor’s home on Hines Point looking for Mr. Wairi. He was arrested in April in Somerville.

The criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleges, among other things, that Mr. Wairi, used his email account to trade and receive images of child pornography and also uploaded images and videos of children being sexually exploited, according to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. The complaint further alleges that Mr. Wairi transferred the images and videos of child pornography to other users.

Mr. Wairi was indicted in May and currently remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshal service pending a status conference on September 3.

If convicted, Mr. Wairi could face a minimum of 15 years in prison for each production charge, a minimum of five years for the transportation charge, as well as a $250,000 fine, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney.

The case highlights the risks homeowners face when they open up access to their wireless Internet service, technology experts said.

Email spurs investigation

The criminal investigation began when Mr. Wairi uploaded four digital files suspected of being child pornography at 2:02 am on Sunday, July 14, 2013 using the American Online (AOL) email address hottjamess@aim.com, according to a criminal affidavit filed by U.S. Postal Inspector Scott W. Kelley.

Immediately, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) automatically submitted a CyberTip to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

NCMEC forwarded the report to the Massachusetts Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The CyberTip contained email exchanges that began July 13, 2013 between a user identified as hottjamess@aim.com, identified as Mr. Wairi in court documents, and another user, not identified in court documents.

Under the subject of “trade,” hottjamess wrote, “looking for boys 7-13yo if your interested in trading.”

A series of exchanges followed. On July 14, 2013, Mr. Wairi congratulated his Internet correspondent on his collection of videos and replied, “I was counting the videos that I have. They are about 45 plus I have about 60 more from [redacted reference] users. And You have many (if not all) of them already! I am attaching a photo here of all of the vids I have and also a link to my dropbox that has 15 of the vids already uploaded. I can upload any others that you like…”

Hottjamess, who signed his email James, expressed a preference for videos with “more than one boy.”

Armed with the Internet Protocol (IP address) investigators determined that it belonged to Verizon Online LLC. A subpoena served to Verizon yielded the customer’s name, identified only by initials in the affidavit, and a Vineyard Haven account address.

Law enforcement extended the review of IP login information for hottjamess@aim.com from July 11-16 and issued subpoenas to Comcast Business Communications and RCN Corporation in an attempt to identify email user hottjamess.

The results, received in January and February, pointed investigators to Josh Wairi of 88 Wheatland Street, Somerville. State Police began their investigation of Mr. Wairi with a visit to the Vineyard Haven address provided by Verizon.

In April, 2014, investigators spoke with the Hines Point homeowner and her neighbor. They confirmed that the resident allowed her neighbors to use her wireless Internet service.

That same week, state police received an additional CyberTip that hottjamess@aim.com uploaded eight suspected images/videos of child pornography with graphic titles. A court issued an Internet search warrant and law enforcement found an account, HOTTJAMESS, on an international site commonly used to trade and view images of children being sexually exploited, according to Mr. Kelley.

On April 16, officers went to the home of Mr. Wairi. “Upon arrival, law enforcement entered the building and knocked on the door of Apartment 204,” according to the affidavit. “After knocking and announcing themselves several times and receiving no answer, law enforcement executed a forced entry into that apartment.”

Josh Wairi was inside, as were several computers, cameras, thumb drives, photo albums and numerous external storage devices, filled with photographs of children, according to the affidavit.

“Among other things, Wairi admitted he spent time in Vineyard Haven during the summer of 2013 with XX,” according to the affidavit. “He confirmed his previous email address of hottjamess@aim.com. Wairi admitted he used this email account to trade and receive images of child pornography. He admitted to using an international website to locate images of child pornography and then contacting various users via email in order to trade images and videos of children being sexually exploited. Wairi admitted his user name for the international site was “hottjamess”. Additionally, Wairi admitted to uploading images and videos of children being sexually exploited to Dropbox. He confirmed he used Dropbox as a means to transfer the images and videos of child pornography to other users and to other emails.”

During the course of the police interview, Mr. Kelley said, Mr. Wairi “admitted to secretly videotaping and using a camera cell phone to videotape children changing in and out of clothes on more than one occasion. He also admitted to setting up and hiding a video camera in a locker room in order to videotape children changing in and out of clothes.”

Mr. Wairi also told police, he had posted an advertisement on Craigslist where he offered his babysitting services.

State Police Sergeant Jeff Stone of Oak Bluffs, and trooper Rob Smith of the ICAC Task Force, who participated in this investigation, declined to comment while the case is being adjudicated.

Protecting your WiFi

In the case of Mr. Wairi, WiFi access was freely provided and there was an element of trust. The neighbor, and Mr. Wairi’s host, had no idea that he was accessing pornographic sites. But the case provides a reminder of the risks associated with easily accessible WiFi.

WiFi can be easily protected from anyone who is not a hacker, Edgartown information technology manager Adam Darack said in a telephone conversation with The Times.

“There are many different types of encryption you can use for your WiFi, which can’t be accessed without using software to hack into it,” he said. “I don’t think there are many people trying to hack WiFi on Martha’s Vineyard, though.”

He advised using Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) as an easy, sophisticated encryption. “Use a password that’s hard to figure out but not so hard that you won’t remember it,” he said. “And don’t tell anyone. No matter what encryption you use, if you tell someone your password, it doesn’t matter how good your protection is.”

All of the Island’s six libraries provide computers and wireless Internet access for the public. No Island libraries limit Internet access from their computers, but each has a use policy that insists that patrons not access illegal material on the Internet.

Library directors that the Times talked to said it is not their policy to limit information but just the opposite — to make information available. Vineyard Haven library director Amy Ryan said that it is her understanding that her library’s Internet service provider will report Internet and email use that contain key words associated with illegal use of the library’s computers.

Chilmark library director Ebba Hierta said that the software she is aware of uses word filters to limit access to undesirable sites, but it has important drawbacks. “We don’t want that,” she said. “If someone were researching a health issue they might not find important information because they used the name of a body part in their search.”

Ms. Hierta is one of several Island library directors who have experienced patrons accessing sites in violation of the policy. She told The Times that they present offending users with a printed copy of the policy and will take away a user’s computer privileges if they have to address the issue a second time. She said that to date that has been enough for the one embarrassed patron, who claimed he got to a site by mistake, to move on to something else.

The federal government stepped in years ago to help protect children from Internet abuse. The Federal Trade Commission adopted amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA) that strengthen kids’ privacy protections and give parents greater control over the personal information that websites and online services may collect from children.

Unlike the libraries, the Island schools all use software-based systems to limit students’ access to undesirable websites and their ability to have free reign on social media sites on school computers and networks.

Tony Omer contributed reporting to this story.

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The speed limit drops from 45 to 35 mph at the Edgartown-Oak Bluffs town line. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Two weeks ago, Oak Bluffs highway department work crews exchanged 45 miles per hour (MPH) speed limit signs for new signs that reduced the speed limit to 35 mph along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road from the Tisbury-Oak Bluffs town line to the roundabout.

Oak Bluffs installed a 35 mph speed limit sign on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in place of the previous 45 mph sign.
Oak Bluffs installed a 35 mph speed limit sign on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in place of the previous 45 mph sign.

Michael Verseckes, deputy communications director for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), which has the sole authority to change speed limits, told The Times that his agency did not authorize any change in the speed limit for that section of roadway.

“A regulatory speed limit sign can only be posted in support of a special speed regulation,” Mr. Verseckes said in an email to The Times. “Such regulations are reviewed by MassDOT and approved by the Highway Administrator and the Registrar of Motor Vehicles before they are installed.”

Mr. Verseckes said that MassDOT had not been aware of the signs. “They were not authorized,” he said in a telephone conversation with The Times. “Only MassDOT can change speed limits, as a matter of consistency.”

The 35 mph sign represents a drop in speed for motorists leaving Tisbury along the Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road. Previously the speed limit increased from 35 mph at Hillside Village to 45 miles per hour and remained 45 mph until just before the roundabout, where it drops to 15 mph.

The change in the signs attracted the attention of Jamie Norton, a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School mathematics teacher who owns a farm on Edgartown-Vineyard haven Road.

“It used to be a 45 miles per hour zone so I went over and asked them what they were doing, and they said the police had told them to put up the sign,” Mr. Norton told The Times.

Ask the police

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Richard Combra Jr., Oak Bluffs highway superintendent, said he placed the signs at the request of the Oak Bluffs police department. “That was done at the request of the police department,” Mr. Combra said in a telephone conversation with The Times on Tuesday. “We put up signs right before the roundabout and after the high school.”

Asked if he was aware that MassDOT had not authorized the reduced speed limit, Mr. Combra said, “I’m not sure, I’d leave that up to Lieutenant Williamson or the chief.”

Lieutenant Tim Williamson said that after consulting with police chief Erik Blake he instructed the Oak Bluffs highway department to change the signs. “There was a huge lack of signage along that road,” he said in a telephone conversation with The Times. “I spoke with the chief and went out with the highway foreman to place some signs. We were aware that, officially, we can put up all the signs we want but we can’t enforce them without a speed study.”

Lt. Williamson believes he was acting on behalf of public safety. He confirmed that he had not sought MassDOT authorization.

“Maybe shame on us for not getting a speed study first, but I wanted those signs up to get people to slow down, to stop people from getting hurt,” he said. “We’ve had accidents there with the increased road use. There are trucks coming out of NSTAR and Goodale’s, year-round usage of the ice arena, elderly housing, the preschool, the YMCA, and of course the school zone. It’s so busy. I think it’s time we had that road restudied.”

Lt. Williamson said that the signs were not intended as a speed trap and that tickets along that road could be successfully appealed. “I haven’t told people to target anyone, to nail people, that’s not the intention,” he said. “We just want people to slow down in a busy area, and if someone got a speeding ticket there they could challenge it, since we haven’t had a speed study yet.”

Not the first time

This is not the first time that Oak Bluffs officials have expressed concern about speed along that section of roadway, or taken action on their own.

In 2001, acting on a joint recommendation of the Oak Bluffs police and highway departments, the selectmen asked the town’s highway department to lower the speed limit approaching the four-way blinker intersection from 35 mph to 25 mph.

But that plan was abandoned after Mr. Combra, then assistant superintendent, learned that he could not post new speed limits without following state procedures. At the time, Mr. Combra told The Times, “There is a process which the town is going to follow.”

One year later, a 30 mph speed limit sign and a “Do Not Pass” sign appeared on a single post at the bottom of a hill just before the entrance to Goodale’s sand pit. MassDOT, at the time called MassHighway, determined that the sign was not authorized. At the time, Mr. Combra said his department had not erected the sign and it was removed.

Before a speed limit can be set or changed, it must be approved by that agency based on set criteria. Otherwise, said one state highway official, towns might post speeds based on political or economic considerations — to deter commuters from passing through a community or to snare unwary motorists in speed traps, for example. Or in the cases of West Tisbury and Aquinnah in the late 1990s, reacting to pressure from local abutters.

According to state records, the roadway is a town road and is posted at 45 mph for 0.73 miles from the Tisbury town line, at which point the speed limit drops to 35 mph for the next 0.34 miles.

Requests for speed limit changes must be made to MassDOT, which usually requests that the town or city conduct a traffic count and speed study. The agency then makes a determination on the need for a change based on that data.

State speed limits are most often set based on a measurement known as the 85th percentile. The 85th percentile is the speed traveled by 85 percent of the cars using a roadway. Traffic engineers assume that 85 percent of the drivers travel at a reasonable and safe speed.

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The wetu lookalike presents visitors to the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah with Wampanoag culture, history and current projects.

The Wampanoag heritage exhibit includes interactive displays. — Photo by Nathaniel Horwitz

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) welcomed tourists, tribal members, and Island residents on Friday to the grand opening of a heritage exhibit at one of the Gay Head cliff lots along the path to the popular scenic vantage point.

Great new destination in Aquinnah.
Great new destination in Aquinnah.

A one-room wetu, a traditional Wampanoag dwelling, is filled with furs, nets, and interactive displays. The tribe’s Natural Resources and Historic Preservation departments created the exhibit to display the history, culture, and present-day programs of the tribe.

The Friday morning celebration began with a smudging ceremony. Medicine man Jason Baird burned sage in and around the building. “It is to purify the space and welcome the people,” he told The Times.

Tribal chairman Tobias Vanderhoop thanked the tribal council, the Natural Resource Commission, and the contractors responsible for the wetu.

Natural Resources director Bret Stearns oversaw and coordinated the project. “It’s very exciting to be here, it’s been a long project,” he told visitors. “We started in 2011 when we went to the tribal council, the vision changed and it grew, and here we are today.”

The Environmental Protection Agency funded the exhibit with a grant of approximately $35,000. The tribe contributed another $35,000, Mr. Stearns said.

The turtle is a centerpiece.
The turtle is a centerpiece.

Tribal Historic Preservation officer Bettina Washington explained the significance of the exhibit. “This building has important elements of our culture,” she said. “Who the Wampanoag are, how we got here, and how we’re still here and what we’re doing.”

Visitors flowed through the building. They admired raccoon and skunk furs, brushed their fingers against a traditional fishing net and examined the displays, including an electronic, interactive kiosk in the corner.

The centerpiece of the wetu is a large floor tile that depicts a turtle crafted from stone and wampum, which represents the tribal concept that the world was created on the back of a turtle. Cultural Resource monitor Elizabeth James Perry created the tile. Tribal member Jason Widdiss used natural materials for the inlay. On the day of the opening, the turtle was wreathed in light from a skylight, representing the traditional smoke hole of a wetu dwelling.

“The doors are open, people are in, it’s great,” Mr. Stearns told The Times. “It’s easy to put up a building; it’s difficult to put up a culturally representative building.”

Tobias Vanderhoop, Jason Baird and Bret Stearns open the Wampanoag heritage exhibit.
Tobias Vanderhoop, Jason Baird and Bret Stearns open the Wampanoag heritage exhibit.

In a later conversation, Mr. Stearns said he encourages Islanders with old photographs or cultural artifacts to call his office at 508-645-9265 about putting them on display.  “We don’t just want it to be a one-time visit, we want to change the content so that residents and visitors can go there and enjoy it multiple times,” he said.

The exhibit will be open throughout the tourist season each year. “Now that it has been open for a few days it’s been incredibly well-received,” Mr. Stearns said. “People go in there and enjoy it and read the material, and I think it really provides a great destination.”

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Lagoon Ridge developer Davio Danielson answered a question about nitrogen mitigation at the Martha's Vineyard Commission meeting on July 17. — Photo by Nathaniel Horwitz

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) began its formal review Thursday of a proposal by Davio Danielson to develop a large lot off Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Danielson, who owns the property with his five children, plans to build up to 25 dwelling units, sited in three different “clusters” on the 32.5-acre parcel.

Commercial fisherman Bill Alwardt, a member of the Oak Bluffs shellfish committee, argued that Lagoon Pond is already dying and cannot sustain additional development without sewering.
Commercial fisherman Bill Alwardt, a member of the Oak Bluffs shellfish committee, argued that Lagoon Pond is already dying and cannot sustain additional development without sewering.

Following a 90-minute public hearing on July 17 as a development of regional impact, the MVC asked Mr. Danielson to return with more details about reducing nitrogen runoff and ensuring that part of the development will be affordable.

The presentation included testimony from town boards and the public and questions from the commissioners. Mr. Danielson is scheduled to return to the MVC on September 4.

In 2009, a team of developers including Mr. Danielson unveiled a plan for “Lagoon Ridge,” a 60-unit subdivision on 70 acres. The MVC informally reviewed the plan, but the development partnership dissolved before the formal review process began.

The development has returned to the MVC much reduced in size and scope. The revised Lagoon Ridge development is roughly half the size of the original plan. As described, Cluster A is divided into four large lots, each with a home of up to four bedrooms. Cluster B will have a home on each of  four standard lots, each with up to three bedrooms. Cluster C will have 15 small lots with up to 17 dwelling units, including two duplexes and six to eight units designated for buyers over 55 years old. One lot may become a community house with space for group activities and extra rooms for visiting family. Cluster C, intended to be affordable housing, is considered “Phase 2” and will be financed by sales of clusters A and B.

“We want to make homes that are accessible to the over 55 folks who are downsizing as well as homes that are affordable to working men and women who service the community, like tradesmen, teachers, and police and firefighters,” Mr. Danielson said in earlier comments.

“The MVC is really concerned about year-round housing,” he added. “These homes are built to be inhabited 12 months of the year, and they’re well insulated so owners don’t pay too much for heat.”

The MVC determined that traffic impact was negligible and that sight lines would not be infringed. However, it had concerns about the nitrogen that 25 more dwellings would add to the Lagoon and how Mr. Danielson would make cluster C affordable for the intended residents, year-round workers.

Developer Davio Danielson was asked to return to the Martha's Vineyard Commission in September with more information.
Developer Davio Danielson was asked to return to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in September with more information.

Nitrogen mitigation

“We’re basically here breaking even,” said MVC member John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs following Mr. Danielson’s presentation on nitrogen mitigation. “The policy guidelines give up to 110kg each year and you’re coming in at 106kg. The Lagoon’s failed, we’re not winning the war if we’re breaking even.”

Mr. Breckenridge pushed for all three of the clusters to operate on a single treatment plant. The current proposal had two clusters on a treatment plant and the third operating on individual systems.

“Perhaps there’s more additional cost for a package plan,” said Mr. Breckenridge. “But there’s a cost-benefit ratio in our view instead of individual systems, with a treatment plan you preserve more open space on each of the lots. I’d like to see nitrogen calculations with the three clusters on one system.”

Bob Fitzgerald, a civil engineer working with Mr. Danielson, said that he was happy to look into the engineering of a single system but explained Mr. Danielson’s proposal. “Why Davio was interested in doing it the way we’ve presented, with the large 1.5-acre stand-alone lots, that helps to finance this project and get things rolling,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “You don’t have to have a full treatment plant in to sell those original eight lots.”

Mr. Breckenridge was not satisfied. “Nitrogen is the big elephant in the room and we’re not sure if this will be addressed properly,” he said. “A system that removes 50 percent makes me yawn: 90 percent gets me excited.”

Mr. Danielson stressed his connection to the Lagoon. “I learned to drive on the Vineyard, I grew up on the pond, my family makes their living fishing, I’m not going to screw up the pond, so we’re going to make this happen,” he said. “If you send us over to the town, we’re really ready.”

Oak Bluffs shellfish committee member William “Bill” Alwardt passionately objected to any more development without sewering. “A hundred feet off the beach, everything’s dead,” he said. “It’s a dead zone and it’s all coming from nitrates, and we aren’t removing them. We used to fish that area. I measure the health of the pond by the fishery. Now there isn’t one.”

He demanded sewering. “Nine hundred houses on the O.B. side needed sewering five years ago, and not one has been sewered,” he said.

Affordable housing

“One of the big selling points of your proposal is the affordability of the cluster C lots,” said MVC member Doug Sederholm. “What are you going to do to assure us that they’re really going to be affordable?”

Mr. Danielson said the project was not at that point. “Once I know what my infrastructure costs are going to be, that we’re going to clear here, I can really begin to hone in on that,” he said.

MVC member Josh Goldstein of Tisbury raised a similar concern. “Affordable lots are tempting not just to people who happen to live here but also to speculators, investors, renters and people who don’t live here,” he said. “When you come back, if you’re going to try and get us to like your project more because it’s going to serve year-rounders, how is it going to demonstrably serve that population as opposed to a population of people who are also looking for cheap, well-built homes at a good rate?”

Mr. Danielson said that he would investigate further and return with more information, but he stressed his commitment to affordability and year-round residents. “My middle daughter has tried living here,” he said. “Her husband worked at the hospital, she had a good job, and they couldn’t make it. The Island’s average weekly wage is 71 percent of the state average, median home price is 54 percent above the state’s, and the median rent exceeds the state’s by 17 percent.”

He also emphasized his belief that it was a good development. “What this is going to offer is beautiful virgin woods with pretty, flat lots and a lot of contour where you could put up a house and live if you’re part of the working stiff community down here,” he said. “There’s a mix of elderly, year-round, affordable in that central cluster, and that’s going to be paid for by people who want the amenity of privacy and a larger lot up on the top that would be in keeping with the neighbors. We’re surrounded by other developments. If we’re going to have more housing, this is the place for it to be.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the MVC approved the Lagoon Ridge plan. The plan received informal review but the partnership dissolved before the start of the formal review process.

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Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi (right) and board president Richard Leonard received the go ahead from the Martha's Vineyard Commission to build six affordable housing apartments on Water Street in Vineyard Haven. — Photo by Nathaniel Horwitz

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) voted unanimously last Thursday, July 17, in favor of an Island Housing Trust (IHT) proposal to construct a six-unit affordable housing rental apartment building on the site of an uninhabitable house at 6 Water Street in Vineyard Haven.

IHT executive director Philippe Jordi and IHT board chairman Richard Leonard sat for half an hour as the commissioners discussed their concerns, and conducted an analysis of the project’s benefits and detriments, then voted in favor of the project, which was reviewed as a development of regional impact (DRI). Commissioners voted not to waive the MVC permitting fee.

MVC action followed a public hearing on the project on July 10 that involved several lines of questioning including the scope of the project and greenery. On Thursday night commissioners once again plowed into the details

More bang for the buck

“Will stormwater be managed completely on site?” asked Christina Brown of Edgartown.

“That’s what they offered to do,” said MVC chairman Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs.

Trip Barnes of West Tisbury, an advocate of more apartments, made a motion to require IHT to increase the number of apartments.

“If you moved it back four feet you could put eight in very comfortably and with the pages and pages of people looking for affordable housing, the constant editorials in the paper, I think this should be put on hold until we get 8 in there, more bang for the buck,” he said. “I don’t care if we have to start over again, because I feel very strongly.”

Brian Smith of West Tisbury seconded the motion for the sake of discussion. “The applicant has brought his plan to us,” said Mr. Hancock. “This is their plan. The charge that we have is to vote on the project as proposed. If you think this proposal is not worthy, you can vote against it.” Mr. Barnes was the sole vote in favor of his motion.

Details in the wording

Mr. Smith was concerned about traffic.

“Where it says one temporary parking space, it’s not one temporary parking space,” he said. “It’s a parking space meant to be temporary. I don’t know how to word that better.”

Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, a veteran MVC member who chairs the land use planning committee (LUPC), replied that in the previous meeting the MVC had clarified that the parking space itself is permanent, but parking in the space is temporary. “That’s the intent,” she said.

“Twenty years from now someone’s going to say I thought that parking space was supposed to leave,” Mr. Smith said. Several commissioners shouted out ideas for rewording.

“Everyone is talking at once,” said Mr. Hancock.

“It’s a drop-off space,” said Ms. Sibley.

“Loading and unloading,” suggested Mr. Hancock.

“One temporary loading space,” said Ms. Sibley.

“It’s not temporary,” a couple of commissioners said.

“It’s one temporary loading space,” repeated Ms. Sibley. “That’s also going to be approved by the LUPC.”

Mr. Hancock wanted to be certain that if anything of archaeological significance to the Wampanoag tribe was found, “they would have the power to stop work.”

“How about suspend,” said MVC member Josh Goldstein of Tisbury. “We don’t like to stop things.”

MVC member James Vercruysse of Aquinnah asked about the lighting. “It’s three feet above the ground,” he said. “Is the other lighting going to be adequate?”

Ms. Sibley replied, “That’s landscape lighting. There’s exterior lighting too, the code requires sufficient lighting.”

Benefits and detriments

Mr. Hancock advanced the meeting to an analysis of benefits and detriments, including the development’s traffic impact, economic impact, burden on taxpayers, wastewater, social benefits, conforming to zoning and burden on public facilities, among others. Each issue was determined a benefit, detriment, or neutral. Most moved quickly, but the commission snagged on a couple decisions.

“Scenic value,” said Mr. Hancock after the traffic impact was determined as nonexistent and therefore positive.

“Anything is better than what’s there,” said Mr. Goldstein.

MVC member Kathy Newman of Aquinnah disagreed. “I would say it’s neutral,” she replied.

“The house needs to be torn down,” said Mr. Goldstein. “How can that be good? You can’t live in it.”

MVC member Joan Malkin of Chilmark tried to clarify the debate. “Whether you can live in it or not has nothing to do with its scenic value,” she said.

“It fits into the tradition of the surrounding buildings,” said Mr. Hancock.

Ms. Newman was not satisfied. “We should have a little more balance between benefits and detriments,” she said. “I mean, in the end …”

Mr. Hancock cut her off. “Do you want to find something wrong with it?”

Ms. Newman paused. “Well, I don’t think, yeah, I mean …”

This time Mr. Goldstein replied. “Why are we fishing for a problem with affordable housing,” he asked.

Ms. Newman answered, “I don’t think the big blocky building that’s going to be there will add to the landscape. It’ll add to affordable housing, I’m glad they’re doing it, but we should be honest about it. It’s adding more building to that downtown.”

Mr. Hancock concluded, “But it absolutely looks like other buildings in that area.”

The commission determined scenic value as neutral and Mr. Hancock moved on.

Letting go

After reviewing several other categories the MVC appeared close to a vote. “Having looked at our benefits and detriments, is there anybody else who would like to have further discussion on this before we vote,” asked Mr. Hancock.

Ms. Brown spoke after an extended pause. “When we say site design, land design, lighting will come back for approval, do we say some architectural and building design things will come back?” she asked. “I think we want to be really clear that we’re saying the architecture of the building is pretty much fine, that they can come back and say, look we’d like windows, things about the fenestration (I just wanted to use that word), window placement, window design, of course they can come back to talk, but architecturally, we’re not talking about changing the shape?”

Mr. Hancock nodded.

“And we’re clear when we say come back for landscaping and site design that we want something consistent with what they’ve already shown?” Ms. Brown asked. “Paving materials in the front, the kind of plants proposed, likely to survive, that the street trees, if they have them, will be in conjunction with the town?”

Mr. Hancock agreed again

“Their original proposal shows brick or something like brick, they have freedom to redesign the surface, but that we like the hard surface,” Ms. Brown said. “I don’t want it to turn into a lawn.”

Mr. Hancock tried to return to starting the vote on project approval.

“Did we vote on waiving the fee,” asked Mr. Vercruysse.

“Separate topic,” said Ms. Sibley.

Mr. Hancock said, “We do need to discuss that.”

Mr. Hancock asked if there were any further questions or objections to the proposal first and turned it over to Ms. Sibley.

“I motion to approve the plan with the proviso that the landscape plan, including the vehicular drop off, architectural details, and the stormwater plan will come back for review by the LUPC before a permit is issued,” she said.

Mr. Barnes was first on the roll call. “I want to go on the record that it should be eight, but I will vote for this — yes,” he said. The approval passed unanimously.

On the the subject of the permitting fee, MVC executive director Mark London said that the MVC policy for nonprofits was to charge. After a brief discussion Ms. Sibley motioned not to waive the $1,000 fee on the basis that the MVC had never done so for a nonprofit. The motion passed with three abstentions.

“You have to pay the fee,” Mr. London said to Mr. Jordi.

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The boys posed before making a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Top row from left, Graham Lewis, Elias-Fagen Smith Nick Fiore, Assistant coach David Smith, Coach Ernie Chaves, Assistant coach Chris Scarcella, Jack Sayre, Mercer Kelly, Tabor Caron, not on team, younger brother Keatan Aliberti. Second Row, Theo Gallagher, Aidan Aliberti, Mitchell Chaves,Curtis Fournier, Zack Moreis, Sam Bresnick — Photo by Tina Miller

A team of 14-year-old baseball players from Martha’s Vineyard competed in a week-long tournament at Cooperstown Baseball World last week against teams from around the country. The 2014 Martha’s Vineyard All-Stars, travelling from July 11 to 18 as the MV Islanders, played seven games in five days just outside Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Game venues included Damaschke Stadium, where Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter once ran the bases.

The Martha's Vineyard All Stars competed in a tournament at SUNY Oneonta.
The Martha’s Vineyard All Stars competed in a tournament at SUNY Oneonta.

“The team played seven very competitive games winning two and losing five,” assistant coach David Smith said in an email to The Times. “However, the five losses were by a combined margin of 9 runs. The first game against the Fulton Force, from New York, was by far the most exciting game as the Islanders trailed 1-0 into the final inning before Elias Fhagen-Smith, who also pitched most of the game only giving up one hit, knocked in the tying run with a single. Mitchell Chaves won the game with a walk-off double scoring two runs.”

After losing an elimination round against the New York Amsterdam Rams in the playoffs, the Islanders defeated the South Harlem All-Stars 9-1 in a consolation game, their last before returning to the Vineyard.

Curtis Fournie brings the heat for the MV All-stars.
Curtis Fournie brings the heat for the MV All-stars.

“Beyond the great baseball all of the boys played,” Mr. Smith said, “the trip was highlighted by a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as well as an Oneonta Outlaws New York Collegiate Baseball League game and lots of team bonding around the dorm ping pong table and campus fields for battles of junk ball and ultimate frisbee.”

The 13 Vineyard players included: Aidan Aliberti, Sam Bresnick, Taber Caron, Mitchell Chaves, Elias Fhagen-Smith, Nick Fiore, Curtis Fournier, Theo Gallagher, Mercer Kelly, Graham Lewis, Zack Moreis, Jack Sayre, and Colby Scarsella. The team was led by head coach Ernie Chaves and assistant coaches David Smith and Chris Scarsella.

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At a camp in 2013, Sam Robinson practiced her swing in front of local Sharks players Tad Gold (left) and Jack Roberts. — Ralph Stewart

Softball is booming on Martha’s Vineyard and much of the credit belongs to Tim Goodman and Laurie Turney who will host the “Vineyard Dynamite Softball Clinic,” a free, three-day clinic for girls aged 7 to 17 as part of an ongoing effort to boost the Island program.

MV softball nearly collapsed due to a lack of players and enthusiasm but experienced a tremendous comeback this spring.

“We’re just replicating the clinic we did last summer because it was such a success,” Mr. Goodman said in a telephone conversation with The Times. “The only person who isn’t returning is Ken Eriksen, the coach at the University of South Florida and the United States national team, who was summering here last time and wanted to help. We had 20-25 girls last year and we’re expecting and hoping for even more this year.”

The clinic runs from 5:30 to 8 pm, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, July 28–30, at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School softball field. Girls can pre-register by sending their name and age to VineyardDynamiteSoftballClinic@comcast.net. The first 15 girls to register and attend all three nights receive a free trip to Fenway Park on August 17, where the Red Sox will face off against the Houston Astros.

“We did the same thing last year,” Mr. Goodman said. “We had girls from 7 to 17, with the coaches, 25 people going to that game together. It was great to see the girls bond and realize that they’re the leaders of this program.”

Mr. Goodman and Ms. Turney, both of Vineyard Haven, are aided by Samantha Burns, also of Vineyard Haven, as well as several Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Varsity softball players and Sharks baseball players.

In 2013, The Times reported that only 11 girls turned out for high school varsity play that spring, just two more than the minimum to field a team. The JV team, with only 10 girls, often had to be supplemented with players from opposing teams. Varsity coach Donald Herman considered resigning and the program was on the verge of disappearing.

Mr. Goodman, whose daughter Micheli Lynn played four years at MVRHS and just completed her first year playing softball at Roger Williams College, and Ms. Turney, who played softball for MVRHS (class of ‘88) and whose daughter, rising junior Emily Turney, made the all-Eastern Athletic Conference team as a freshman at MVRHS, were not going to let that happen.

This spring, 35 girls turned out for varsity and Babe Ruth registrations shot up. Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools superintendent James Weiss told Mr. Goodman that if the trend continues girls softball could return to the elementary schools.

“I remember Coach Herman called me,” said Mr. Goodman. “He was so excited, he told me, ‘Tim, you won’t believe how many girls showed up to play ball.’”

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More than 50 men stood on a Vineyard Haven seawall Saturday in a demonstration against violence towards women.

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Jeannie Pierson lost her sister-in-law in 2012 after her brother killed her. She came to do her best to save women in the future.

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The signs had various themes and messages on them, including names of people affected by domestic violence and words encouraging the end of abuse.

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Kamryn Bishop, of Vineyard Haven, sits and hold the sign she helped create to encourage the end of domestic violence.

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Domestic Violence councilor Sara Leandro writes "Who do you stand for?" with chalk in front of the demonstrators.

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The event was put on by Martha's Vineyard Community Services' CONNECT to End Violence program.

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Vineyard man stand on the seawall on Beach Rd. to fight against domestic violence and to remember those lost because of it.

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Tisbury resident Max Sherman writes #NotAllMen on the seawall so passing boats can see the movement.

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Jamie Craig, of the Edgartown Police Department, holds a quote from Desmond Tutu.

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Passersby wave and honk their support.

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A group of men stood united against domestic violence in Vineyard Haven on Saturday.

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Times writer Nathaniel Horwitz writes his own sign for the event.

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Danyon Russell, left, and Hudson Maynard proudly hold their signs.


Over the course of Saturday morning, more than 50 men and several women stood along the seawall that flanks Vineyard Haven harbor on Beach Road in a highly visible public statement against domestic violence. The  demonstration was organized by CONNECT to End Violence, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS).

“It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men,” said South African activist and Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu. His words were among the quotes held up on placards

by men participating in the 3rd Annual Sea Wall Event.

Many of those holding signs wrote the names of the women they were standing up for on their placards. As the line of men standing increased from a handful to more than 50, passing motorists honked in approval. Some pulled over and joined the demonstration. CONNECT volunteers manned a table next to the wall with water and pizza for demonstrators, who stood for as long as three hours. They also sold Sea Wall Event tee-shirts to raise money for the organization’s domestic abuse counseling program, which includes a 24-hour hotline (508-696-7233).

“Raised by a single mom, a cop who did a lot with domestic violence, I couldn’t not show up,” Danyon Russell of Edgartown, told The Times. Mr. Russell, stood for three hours holding a sign that read, “Those without a voice.”

Jeannie Pierson, of Oak Bluffs, decided women should stand as well. She explained, “Two years ago, my brother shot his wife in the head and took his own life. I’ll keep on telling my story until someone gets it. It doesn’t matter that he shot her and not the other way around. They both died because no one tried to stop domestic violence.”

Ms. Pierson collects old cell phones, which Verizon converts into untraceable cell phones for domestic abuse victims. She encourages people to drop off old cell phones in a box at the police department in Oak Bluffs, where she works.

James Craig, executive officer of the Island’s tactical response team and an Edgartown police officer, said he deals with domestic violence every day. “It’s probably the most common call,” he said in a conversation with The Times as he stood on the wall. “The Island has a lot of substance abuse, depression; those make every situation worse. We have to go back to the same houses over and over again. Today, I hope to inspire people to leave.”

Mr. Craig said domestic violence goes both ways. “Men are the primary aggressors, but I’ve arrested the husband one day and the wife the next,” he said. “We get weird cases too. I had one guy who didn’t let her sleep, because he enjoyed it because he was a miserable guy. It took a long time to realize he was keeping her awake, tormenting her with no sleep.”

Sterling Bishop, assistant superintendent of the Island jail, part-time DJ, football coach and father of two daughters, also took part in the demonstration. One of his daughters tagged along. “My mother was a victim,” he said in a conversation with The Times. “And now I have two young daughters. I stand for them.”

He estimated that 10 percent of the men he encounters at the jail are there because of domestic violence.

Charlie Laing of Scotland was staying in Vineyard Haven for the week. “I saw it in the calendar section of the Martha’s Vineyard Times and it’s a great cause and a great effort, so I joined,” he said. “I haven’t got a friend or family member affected, but that doesn’t mean anything. My daughter, Sophie, is in college. I’m doing it for her as much as anybody.”

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Geneticists say new biotech can bring the heath hen back from extinction, will seek community support for feasibility study.

Dr. Alfred Gross tenderly holds the last surviving heath hen, "Booming Ben," before releasing him after banding in 1931. — Dukes County Intelligencer

The last heath hen on Earth, nicknamed “Booming Ben” by conservationists struggling to save the species, died on Martha’s Vineyard in 1932. He roamed the State Forest, established as a heath hen preserve, for years before he disappeared forever.

Revive & Restore will discuss efforts to bring back the heath hen at the Ag Hall on July 24.
Revive & Restore will discuss efforts to bring back the heath hen at the Ag Hall on July 24.

Revive & Restore, an offshoot of the San Francisco-based Long Now Foundation that proposes to use new genetic biotechnology to revive extinct species, will seek community support to bring the heath hen back from extinction. They will unveil their plan at a public forum next week at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury.

“We are organizing what should be a pretty extraordinary gathering,” said Revive & Restore cofounder Ryan Phelan in a conversation with The Times. “On Thursday, July 24, we’ll host a major public event at the Ag Hall along with key experts in conservation, de-extinction, and Island ecology to provide background on the heath hen, its ecology, and what would be involved in an Island conservation project of this kind.”

The presentation begins at 6:30 pm and will be followed by a panel discussion that will include Ms. Phelan and Stewart Brand, president of the Long Now Foundation and Whole Earth Catalog, as well as naturalist Matt Pelikan of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), writer Tom Dunlop, and ecologists Josh Donlan and Tom Chase, also of TNC.

“We see this as a great way to involve the community in this discussion,” said Ms. Phelan. “There will also be a special Ag Hall exhibit on the heath hen at 5 pm on Thursday to demonstrate the rich history of the heath hen on the Island and the extraordinary effort Islanders made trying to save the species.”

Ms. Phelan and Mr. Brand will also speak about de-extinction and the heath hen at 5 pm on Wednesday, July 23, at the Chilmark Public Library as part of its summer lecture series.

How and why

“We hope that there will be a good turnout and that the community is willing to think seriously about possibly being the first community to bring a beloved extinct animal back to life,” said Ms. Phelan. “It will require funding and community support. If the Island is interested, the first step would be to complete a feasibility study.”

The study would cost $250,000. Full revival and restoration would require several million dollars, but Ms. Phelan and Mr. Brand are undaunted by the price. “In the same ballpark, the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship cost $8 million to restore, and it won’t live on for eons,” she said. “The heath hen is a famous extinction story in our country and one of the most tragic losses.”

Ms. Phelan says Martha’s Vineyard is the ideal location. “There are many successful reintroductions of species on islands,” she said. “Martha’s Vineyard has demonstrated a dedication to conserving this species and funding from private individuals might be more readily accessible. Martha’s Vineyard could once again be a globally significant pioneer in conservation.”

She is especially enthusiastic because the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest was established as a heath hen preserve. “The heath hen could be an ‘umbrella’ project for restoring historic habitat, leading to a reduction in predators such as skunks, helping Island conservation organizations to work together, and inspiring a generation of school kids with interest in everything from Island history and ecology to cutting-edge biotech.”

The heath hen’s last stand

“One extraordinary aspect of the Heath Hen’s latter days is that of all the bird species decimated by men in North America, it was the first by nearly a hundred and fifty years to have any legislation to protect it,” wrote Maitland A. Edey Sr. in a book that was not published before his death in 1992 but which appeared in a May 1998 issue of “The Dukes County Intelligencer.”

In 1708 New York state passed a bill protecting the bird, which was followed decades later in 1791 by a $2.50 fine for killing heath hens during summer. These measures failed due to widespread poaching and a lack of enforcement. “So it was on the Vineyard where, in the late 1800s, the bird established its final refuge,” Mr. Edey wrote. There, too, legislation failed. In 1842, Tisbury voted to restrict heath hen hunting, a law that was widely ignored. Then, as it became apparent that the heath hen was going extinct, museums and private collectors sent hunters so that they could get a specimen before it vanished.

When 1,600 acres, the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, were set aside for the bird in 1908, only 45 heath hens remained on Earth.

The heath hen became a favorite conservation success story, and the population rebounded to around 2,000 by 1916. “All concerned were greatly encouraged. The birds spread over most of the Island and their survival seemed assured,” wrote Mr. Edey. “Their optimism soon died.” On May 12, 1916, a fire wiped out an entire generation of heath hen eggs and young. Hunting continued. By 1925, there were 25 birds.

A headline in the April 21, 1933 Vineyard Gazette declared the end of the heath hen.
A headline in the April 21, 1933 Vineyard Gazette declared the end of the heath hen.

That number dropped to three, all male, in 1928. Two were dead by the end of the year. The last bird was seen sporadically for several years. A conservationist caught him in 1931 and placed an aluminum band on his left leg and a copper band on his right for identification, smoothed the bird’s feathers, and released him.

He saw the heath hen again on March 11, 1932 and then never again. Here Mr. Edey ended his story: “Today, somewhere on the Great Plain, two small metal bracelets lie beneath the scrub oak duff.”

The science

George Church, a Harvard geneticist working with Revive & Restore to bring back woolly mammoths and passenger pigeons, explained de-extinction science in a telephone conversation with The Times.

“I’m particularly attracted to the heath hen because it’s basically a slam dunk,” he said. “We can just make a few adjustments to the DNA of the greater prairie chicken by synthesizing heath hen DNA. That would take days, thousands [of dollars], nothing. As an engineering project, birds are easy.”

Dr. Church says the science part of heath hen de-extinction would be straightforward. “I would say half a million dollars. Less, actually, and a couple years,” he said. “I think it’s a totally feasible project. These projects get pushed forward because of the biomedical applications. There’s tremendous value in this so the prices come down and progress increases.”

Jeff Johnson, a geneticist and conservation biologist at the University of Northern Texas who does not work with Revive & Restore and is not involved with Dr. Church’s research spoke with The Times via telephone. His speciality are prairie grouse like the endangered Attwater’s chicken, close relatives of the heath hen.

“From a technological standpoint, I think there’s a lot of promise,” he said. “I’m optimistic.”

He explained what to do after heath hens hatched. “If the habitat doesn’t exist, the species won’t persist,” he said. “Restoring habitat is a really good idea, not just for the heath hen but for a lot of other living species. I don’t think it should stop with Martha’s Vineyard. From a conservation and biotechnology standpoint, Revive & Restore should look at restoring the entire east coast. The heath hen was an important species.”

A distraction

Revive & Restore is not without critics. “A few years ago de-extinction was science fiction,” wrote the editors of Scientific American in an editorial this May. “Now researchers may be able to re-create any number of species once thought to be gone for good. That does not mean that they should. With limited intellectual bandwidth and financial resources, de-extinction threatens to divert attention from the modern biodiversity crisis. Already conservationists face difficult choices about which species and ecosystems to save, since they cannot hope to rescue them all. Should we resurrect the mammoth only to let elephants go under? Of course not.”

A professor of population studies at Stanford University, Paul Ehrlich, agrees. “Spending millions trying to deextinct a few species will not compensate for the thousands of species lost due to human activities,” he wrote in an online article for Yale Environment 360. “If people take this seriously, they will do even less to stop the sixth great mass extinction.”

Revive & Restore community consultant, Susan Johnson Banta of Chilmark, addressed these concerns in a conversation with The Times.

“If this takes X number of dollars, shouldn’t that money be going to protecting our endangered species, affordable housing, health care,” she asked rhetorically. “This is new money coming to the Vineyard. Instead of taking a piece of the current pie, it’ll make a much bigger pie.”

Ms. Banta said the heath hen would also boost off-season tourism. “Even back in the 1800s, the heath hen attracted tourists,” she said. “There is a love-hate relationship with tourists, but it would attract more in the offseason time, especially around the Christmas bird count, so it’d be a boon for the Vineyard.”

“My main goal for the presentation at the Ag Hall on July 24 is that we raise the public awareness and have a true conversation,” she said. “I think this will move forward and we’ll see a heath hen back on the Vineyard.”