Field Notes: Prescribed Burns on Martha’s Vineyard


To: Bluedot Living

From: Mike Whittemore, The Nature Conservancy Stewardship Manager, Cape Cod and the Islands

Subject: Prescribed Burns on Martha’s Vineyard

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) are partnering to perform six controlled burns on Martha’s Vineyard in Edgartown and West Tisbury before May of this year with funding from MassWildlife’s Habitat Management Grant Program. The purpose of the burns is to improve critical habitat on the Island. Burns will be conducted by a specially trained crew at the following locations:

  • Katama Airfield
  • Bigelow Preserve 
  • Bamford Preserve
  • Long Point Wildlife Refuge (West Tisbury)
  • Wasque Reservation (Edgartown)

The goal in utilizing fire as a management tool is to conduct safe and effective burns. Fire is an important tool for managing imperiled sandplain grassland and barrens natural communities, preserving precious fire-adapted native species that depend on these habitats while reducing woody vegetation cover. TNC has been a leader in prescribed burning on Martha’s Vineyard for decades, creating conditions that maintain fire-adapted native plant and animal species, alter soil conditions and microclimate, and reduce fire risk to the public. Over the past 35 years, TNC has helped protect more than 1,500 acres of land on Martha’s Vineyard. The Trustees has been stewarding thousands of acres of land on Martha’s Vineyard for decades, performing resiliency work that has helped protect beaches, marsh, grasslands, and barrens habitat shaped by fire.
The burns will be performed with assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as well as both the Edgartown and West Tisbury Fire Departments. In addition to perpetuating the rare habitat, the fires will help support the goals of the Dukes County Community Wildfire Protection Plan which mitigates hazards for at-risk communities.

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