Controlled burns ongoing on the Vineyard

The fires help maintain rain grassland habitat.


If you happen to see smoke cascading over the Island this week, chances are it’s for a good cause.

Nonprofits and state and local officials teamed up Monday, March 20, to burn tens of acres of rare coastal grassland habitat on the Island.

The Nature Conservancy and the Trustees of Reservations received a grant from the state to burn six locations around Edgartown and West Tisbury, including at the Katama Airfield and the Bamford Preserve.

“It’s a great habitat management tool for plants and animals, and for people too,” said Karen Lombard about the prescribed burns. Lombard is the director of stewardship and restoration at the Nature Conservancy.

The rare grasslands — and the animals that live in the area — have adapted to grass fires over generations, but the management practice also prevents unplanned wildfires.

On Monday, the partnership burned some 75 acres of grass and 50 acres of forest at Bamford, Katama, and Long Point in West Tisbury.

Members of the state’s conservation department, fire officials from West Tisbury and Edgartown, a certified fire crew from New Jersey, and both the Trustees and Conservancy were present for the burns.

Lombard said that these coastal grasslands are beneficial habitat for grasshopper sparrows, a species in decline, specifically because their preferred habitat is in decline globally; also, whippoorwill, whose population is also in decline, live in the more wooded areas in the conservation land. Lombard said there are also a number of rare moths that inhabit the areas.

Crews were back to burning conservation areas on Tuesday, March 21.


  1. Great to see Science at work in using fire to create and manage the natural ecosystem. The Nature Conservancy is doing amazing work to restore habitat and add to the island’s plant and animal diversity. Hats off to TNC and those who understand the importance of prescribed burns. Can’t wait to see it in the spring!!

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