Salt marsh looking out to the ocean on a clear day.

Land Use, Natural Resources, and Biodiversity

Martha’s Vineyard is home to globally rare ecosystems and a wide array of biodiversity. The actions in this focus area strive to preserve and better manage the Island's natural resources. Actions also focus on improving zoning and land use management to ensure safety of our community.


Progress Toward Our Goals

Many actions are underway in this thematic area from various partners but here are some highlights.

  • The MVC received a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program grant with several local partners to
    • Update vegetation mapping of the Vineyard and Nantucket (Town Conservation Commissions, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, Polly Hill Arboretum, Vineyard Conservation Society, Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, MV Land Bank, Trustees of the Reservations, Biodiversity Works, the Town of Nantucket)
    • Map eelgrass in Lake Tashmoo, Lagoon Pond and Sengekontacket Pond to help identify future aquaculture sites (MV Shellfish Group, Great Pond Foundation)
    • Focus groups with the landscape community to understand the barriers and opportunities for climate resilient and native landscaping (MV Vision Fellowship/Harvard Fellowship, BiodiversityWorks, Polly Hill Arboretum, and Vineyard Conservation Society,)
    • Develop a series of outreach materials to support resilient landscaping
    • Planning and coordination support for a 2024 Climate Action Fair including support for a Brazilian Community Event
  • For more updates, take a look at our 2023 Progress Report!

Selecting Native Plants

Check out Polly Hill updated plant selection guide, which allows you to select native plants based on your site conditions and keep an eye out in May for courses on native plants. 

Land Use

A Growing Community

Dukes and Nantucket Counties have the fastest population growth in the state. As more people call the Island home, we need to ensure that we are growing smart and protecting the health of our diverse natural areas and keep people out of current and future risk areas.

7,400 new houses and 9,000 guesthouse could be built based on current zoning. Currently 313 buildings will be permanently flooded by 2050 due to sea level rise, storms, and storm surge. The development planning and zoning choices we make now can either aid in building resilience or create new vulnerabilities.

Orange native flower growing on a dune above a beach.

Wetlands and Ponds

Protecting our Environment that Protects Us

Over the last 25 years, clearing land and planting non-native species contributed to a loss of nearly 10% of our native flora. For new and existing properties, enhancing biodiversity is critical to supporting healthy resilient ecosystems. 

Without room to migrate inland, many salt marshes could turn into tidal flats as the sea rises. Over 266 of the Island’s 3,500 acres of wetlands (largely salt marshes) could be lost by 2050. Taking steps to protect these areas for wetland migration will help retain their ecosystem values and build resilience.

Nearly every one of our 27 coastal ponds are currently classified as "impaired".  Taking action to reduce pollutants and runoff will help our pond ecosystem resilience to climate change.

Caution sign in front of eroded beach area.
Flood waters cover a residential street.

Equity Considerations

Smart Land Use

On our Island, equitable access to basic resources is already under stress. Our growing population is living in prolonged states of insecurity – a problem which will deepen in the face of climate impacts. The Vineyard Way plan aims to foster careful land use decision-making that is inclusive of the community and can help keep our most vulnerable residents out of harm’s way while also promoting of a healthy environment. If not done thoughtfully, however, our existing land use patterns stand to broaden inequality, further endanger our most vulnerable populations, degrade our environment, and impair the overall resilience of our community. 


Thematic Working Group Members

Liaison: Vineyard Conservation Society 
(Samantha Look)

Kara Shemeth 

Brianna Oliveira 

Tim Boland 

Rose Ryley 

Tim Simmons 

Sheri Caseau 

Shea Fee 

Emma Green-Beach 

Ian Peach 

Luanne Johnson 

Nancy Weaver 

Shelley Edmundson 

Jo-Ann Taylor 

Emily Reddington 

Bill Veno 

Garret Albiston 

Beckie Finn 

Suzan Bellincampi 

Kat Monterosso 

Carole Vandal

How You Can Help

Take Action to Protect our Natural Resources and Biodiversity!

Choose native plants and trees; they are easier to care for, increase biodiversity, and absorb storm and rainwater.
Read The Island Blue Pages, A Guide to Protecting Martha’s Vineyard Waters
Reduce your lawn size to native plants.