The Nature Conservancy has received nearly 500 acres on Martha’s Vineyard as a gift from dedicated local conservationists.
This forest and grassland property in West Tisbury and Chilmark, known as the Frances Newhall Woods Nature and Wildlife Preserve, will be forever protected as habitat, thanks to the generosity of the Woods family.
In 1991, Bob and Jeanne Woods donated a conservation restriction on the property to The Nature Conservancy. At the time, it was among the most valuable gifts the global organization had ever received, said Tom Chase, of The Nature Conservancy.
“Many people give us land for conservation,” Chase said. “But Bob truly loved this piece of the Vineyard, and he ensured that it would be protected forever.”
The land includes two very different types of ecosystems. Upland oak forests provide habitat for scarlet tanagers and other songbirds, and the forest’s pocket wetlands and seasonal vernal pools offer ecological diversity. Nearby, grasslands provide habitat for American woodcock and rare moths. In fact, for one moth species, the only known record north of Staten Island was on the Woods property. Mill Brook also runs through the property, harboring brook trout, as well as the river otters that Bob Woods loved to watch.
This property also sits within nearly 2,000 acres of interconnected forestland, creating important wildlife corridors. And the 485 acres of the preserve itself represents a significant forest core on Martha’s Vineyard, where nature can take its course.
Guided walks on the Woods property will continue.
The Woods family is well known for years of commitment to conservation on the island, and has previously donated land to the town of West Tisbury and to the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. Both Bob and Jeanne died in 2011, but their children; Edwin “Robin” Woods, Francine Woods, and Prudence Noon, have formalized the couple’s wish that ownership of the preserve property be granted to The Nature Conservancy.
“Beginning in the 1980's, our parents, with the advice of Island visionaries, concurred that because of its primarily undisturbed and significant conservation value, the property would become a nature and wildlife preserve in perpetuity,” said Francine Woods. “The acceptance of this gift by The Nature Conservancy is a transition in stewardship of a unique landscape that fosters the protection of an area-wide ecosystem.”
The land is now doubly protected. The permanent conservation restriction on the property has been transferred to the Vineyard Conservation Society, an organization that for nearly a half-century, has been working for environmental stewardship on Martha’s Vineyard through land protection as well as community advocacy.
Legally, one organization cannot both own a property and hold a conservation restriction on that property, so the two conservation groups will collaborate on stewardship of the land going forward. And so VCS, the Conservancy’s partner in initial protection of the property, will hold the conservation restriction.
“This is a significant conservation achievement, more than two decades in the making,” said Brendan O'Neill, Executive Director, Vineyard Conservation Society. “VCS is happy to be partnering with the Conservancy to keep the protections of the original conservation instrument alive.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts