People can speak for themselves but the land cannot talk. In 2020 I wrote a book, In Praise of Protected Lands And Special Places On Martha’s Vineyard, to speak for the land. The proceeds from the book go to support the Land Protection Fund for Martha’s Vineyard which is administered by the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation. This fund supports land preservation transactions when needed.

I believe we all share a great love for this land we call Martha’s Vineyard. The land is the foundation to all our experience and enjoyment here. It enriches our lives immensely with its vast beauty from its magnificent shorelines to its ponds and sandplain grasslands, its forests and farmlands and its largely rural character. Indeed, without its unique landscape there would be no Martha’s Vineyard as we know it.

We are extremely fortunate that approximately 40 per cent of the Vineyard’s land mass has been conserved. Thirty per cent has been developed. What happens to the remaining 30 per cent will determine our Island’s character going forward. Put another way, the future of our Island’s character is entirely dependent on how we manage the remaining 30 per cent. I deeply hope this management will be a collaboration between the land’s needs and the needs of our residents.

You might ask what the needs of the land are? The land needs our protection. It produces and as well as protects our fresh water supply, its soils produce our farmland’s bounty and its abundant tree cover absorbs carbon dioxide, all these things are essential to our well being. The less we disturb our landscape the better off we all are, and yet many of our Island residents need affordable homes. How the issues of affordable housing fit together with land protection is critical in managing the remaining 30 per cent.

In thinking of the Vineyard’s future, which I do all the time, I think of our shrinking Island due to rising sea levels and our relentless population growth. How to balance the two?

Since I wrote this book I am very happy to say that a development has occurred that may have the potential to create a good balance between both the needs of the land and the needs of its residents. There is now an effort to establish a Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank which will work with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.

This is exactly the kind of collaboration the Island needs, a comprehensive approach that looks at the pieces of the Island’s conservation and affordable housing challenges in a holistic way.

Tess Bramhall

West Tisbury