Last week Gazette readers saw and read about the removal of trees and sod from properties on the Island, two of which are under the stewardship of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation.
All of us at Sheriff’s Meadow, both directors and staff, are distressed by the obvious acts of omission that occurred. The failure to initiate an internal discussion, follow regulatory notification procedures, understand the scope of activity contemplated and provide appropriate and adequate supervision of any removal efforts, point out weaknesses in our procedures and, in this case, an unfortunate lack of judgment. We apologize to our supporters, to those who have entrusted their properties to us, and to all the conservation-minded citizens of Martha’s Vineyard.
This situation arose because over the years Sheriff’s Meadow, in its obligation and need to manage its properties, has had ongoing relationships with landscape contractors. The stewardship of each property is conducted in accordance with a management plan formulated after an in-depth study of the property’s characteristics, prior history and the intent direction of the owner. When it is appropriate to remove trees and invasive species, and/or conduct mowing as part of the management plan, we have at times entered into arrangements with contractors. Those arrangements, until now conducted on a handshake basis, have allowed the contractors to take unidentified species which have marketable value in their business in return for mowing and clearing on the property. In no case do any of our management plans permit “strip mining” of sods and plants, and none occurred on either of our properties in the present case. Nor do we deal with, or normally know, the identity of landowners who may be receiving any of the trees or plants removed from our property. Regrettably, we were not prepared for the recent abuse of this arrangement.
What is now important is how Sheriff’s Meadow reacts and learns from this experience. Our new executive director Adam Moore has already called a halt to this type of arrangement and has prepared a draft outlining new written procedures to govern our practices in stewardship matters that involve third parties. Those procedures will be presented to the board of directors for review and adoption. Adam and I have already met with Tim Simmons of the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. We have promised the foundation’s full support in implementing and overseeing restorative efforts if they are called for.
As the current president of the board, I take responsibility for our shortcomings in this matter. However, what concerns me are any unwarranted implications that may unfairly and indiscriminately reflect on the reputation of the staff as a whole. Each and every one of them is committed to conserving and improving the lands and habitats on the Island. It is their passion, and the professionalism and devotion they expend is unlimited and remarkable. If any one of them had even an inkling that their actions might contribute to damaging foundation lands, they would be appalled. Having said that, I can assure you we will be implementing all the reasonable steps we can to ensure such an incident will not occur in the future. And we will redouble our efforts to make sure that your trust in Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation has not been misplaced.
If you have questions or would like to offer constructive comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact Adam Moore at our offices. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our phone number is 508-693-5207.
Mr. Crampton is president of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation.