Land Use, Natural Resources, and Biodiversity
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.
Over the last 25 years, however, clearing land and planting non-native species contributed to a loss of nearly 10% of our native flora from an increase in pests and invasive plants. For new and existing properties, enhancing biodiversity on the Island is critical to supporting a healthy ecosystem. We must recognize that our most critical needs - air, food, water, shelter - are all provided for by a healthy natural environment.
Wetlands and Ponds
Saving Our Shores
Without room to migrate inland, many salt marshes will 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 due to sea level rise. Taking steps to protect these areas, while limiting the Island's contribution to climate change, will help our wetlands retain their ecosystem values and make them more resilient.
Nearly every one of our 27 coastal ponds are currently classified as "impaired," a designation which indicates poor health and an inability to meet one or more of the standards set by the Clean Water Act. Degraded pond water quality is further stressed due to climate change impacts such as warmer and more acidic water and heavier rainfall.
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.