Sheriff's Meadow Foundation   A Martha's Vineyard Land Trust - 508-693-5207  

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Mowing and Prescribed Burning

Mowing and prescribed burning are two means of ecological management that Sheriff’s Meadow employs.  Fields and meadows are mowed or burned in order to check the natural process of forest succession. On Martha's Vineyard, indeed throughout the northeastern United States, most land "wants" to be a forest. Simply ceasing to mow one’s lawn is often sufficient to allow a forest to begin to grow. Over time, shrubs and trees overtake grasses, and meadows become woodlands. While forest succession is a natural process, there are certain natural communities that are much less common now, and these communities require disturbance, such as mowing or burning, in order to perpetuate them. On Martha's Vineyard, these lands include the sandplain grasslands of the island's great, flat outwash plains, heathland barrens of huckleberry and blueberry shrubs, and open fields and meadows. 

Sheriff's Meadow Foundation mows our lands using our tractor and other equipment; from time to time we also seek the help of outside contractors. Mowing is most often conducted in the fall and winter months. We mow in these colder months to avoid harming ground-nesting birds and also to allow warm season grasses, such as little bluestem, to be able to set seed before being mown. From time to time, however, it is necessary to mow during spring or summer, especially when needed to deplete the root reserves of encroaching woody vegetation. We also occasionally conduct prescribed burning. Burning only occurs when the weather is just right; too dry, too windy, and the burn is called off.  Yet when the weather cooperates, the prescribed burn is conducted by a team of trained, well-equipped individuals and led by an experienced “burn boss.” Both our Director of Stewardship, Kristen Fauteux, and our Property Manager, Bill Bridwell, are certified to participate in prescribed burns.