SMF resumes Tuthill Preserve work
The Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF) began work last week to restore an open meadow and create several acres of pitch pine savanna at the organization's Caroline Tuthill Preserve in Edgartown.
The Tuthill Preserve is located on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road near the busy Triangle intersection. The goal is to create valuable wildlife habitat as well as an attractive roadside meadow and scenic view along one of the Vineyard's most well traveled roadways, said Adam Moore, SMF executive director.
Photo by Steve Myrick
In many respects the work is a resumption of a project cut short last spring when the private conservation nonprofit allowed Oakleaf Landscaping to remove mature pitch pines and do other work without proper permit review by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, which is responsible for enforcing the state Endangered Species Act.
Mr. Moore said the Tuthill work is being conducted in accordance with the foundation's habitat management and restoration plan, which was approved by Natural Heritage and the Edgartown Conservation Commission.
Sheriff's Meadow is the largest private conservation organization on Martha's Vineyard and owns or manages some 2,637 acres. Mr. Moore, a Yale-trained forester, joined SMF last spring just as a controversy erupted over the removal of plants and trees from the 61-acre Priscilla Hancock Meadow, off South Road in Chilmark, and the 150-acre Tuthill Preserve.
At the Hancock Meadow, the goal was to expand the native grasslands. Trees were removed from the Tuthill Preserve as part of a longstanding management plan intended to create a meadow.
Last spring, in keeping with the management plans, Dick Johnson, SMF land manager at the time, allowed a landscaper, working under a labor-for-plants barter arrangement, to remove huckleberry from the Hancock Meadow and approximately 22 pitch pines and three cedar trees from the Tuthill Preserve.
Mr. Johnson, a longtime member of the conservation community, filed a management plan for the work in Chilmark, but he did not fully describe that work. He did not file a plan for the Tuthill property and failed to properly monitor the extent of the work, which included the use of heavy equipment.
Alerted to the extent of the work by a member of the West Tisbury conservation commission, Natural Heritage began an investigation. After months of review, in November the investigation ended with a letter of agreement between Natural Heritage and SMF on a plan to mitigate the effects of the removal of trees and plants from the two properties. Tom French, Natural Heritage assistant director, used the opportunity to praise SMF's continued protection and management of state-listed species habitats on Martha's Vineyard.
The approved plan allows Sheriff's Meadow to continue its work of creating open meadow habitat at the Tuthill Preserve and create a pitch pine savannah.
The current work is being done by Oakleaf Landscaping as part of an agreement reached between Mr. Moore and John Hoff, Oakleaf owner, on the dollar value of the plants removed from both properties last spring.