THE ENDURING NATURE OF TUCKERNUCK
Tuckernuck Island is in the full green of summer. Almost every shade of that color is on vibrant display across the island, from the sandplain grasslands to the old oak forest. The denser vegetation is alive with birdsong, and dragonflies can be seen darting back and forth across sunlit clearings. And just as humans slow a bit in the hot summer sun, various shorebirds return to Tuckernuck’s shores to loaf around until they set off on their fall migration paths.
These activities are happening all across Tuckernuck, thanks to the conservation work both on and off the island over the past thirty years. Amid real estate development everywhere, Tuckernuck Island is a haven for threatened and endangered shorebirds and home to a unique mix of fauna and flora.
Enjoy this information about the singular Tuckernuck Island and the Tuckernuck Land Trust’s work to maintain its beautiful balance.
To ensure the permanent conservation of the 26-acre parcel of land that TLT purchased in 2016, the Tuckernuck Land Trust needed to raise $300,000 by 2024 to retire our mortgage with the Agua Fund. Our conservation colleagues at the Nantucket Land Council committed half of that amount, if TLT could raise the remaining half. In each of the three years ending June 30 in 2021, 2022, and 2023, the Land Council offered to match $50,000 in new contributions.
Stay tuned for news about the results of the challenge and the campaign.
A VIEW FROM TUCKERNUCK
Weekly Letters from the TLT Coastal Steward, 2020-2021
In his two seasons serving as the Tuckernuck Land Trust's Coastal Steward, Skyler Kardell offered a weekly chronicle of the constant changes and unusual sightings that animate Tuckernuck Island.
Learn about the patterns and vagaries of a Tuckernuck summer by exploring the letter archives.
2021 LETTER ARCHIVE
2020 LETTER ARCHIVE
A FOCUS ON CONSERVING CORE HABITAT
The Tuckernuck Land Trust preserves land and promotes stewardship and education in order to conserve Tuckernuck Island's rare natural communities and unique coastal ecology. The island's rural and scenic landscapes include one of the Northeast's last remaining sandplain grassland communities where rare short-eared owls could still raise their young. For such a small island, Tuckernuck's natural systems contribute a rich mix to the region's coastal biodiversity.
Sparsely populated, Tuckernuck is a coastal island 25 miles south of Cape Cod. The island's approximate 800 acres support plant communities distinctive to the North Atlantic Region. It hosts several state-rare plant and animal species that thrive in the harsh maritime conditions. Along with its nearby sister-islands of Nantucket and Muskeget, and Martha's Vineyard a bit farther to the west, it forms a boundary that distinguishes Nantucket Sound from the Atlantic Ocean.
From a bird's-eye-view, Tuckernuck and its neighboring islands are like stepping stones along the coastal flyway. Sandy beaches, gnarled oak forests, and coastal sandplains provide respite and sources of food for neotropical songbirds weary from their long-distance travel.
The natural dynamics of erosion and accretion along Tuckernuck Island's shoreline are the source of its miles of beach, ever-shifting shoals, and nearby sandbars that are haulout points and rich feeding grounds for thousands of seals, sea ducks and shorebirds. The entire island of Tuckernuck has been identified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as Core Habitat and is a critical component for protecting statewide biodiversity.
The Tuckernuck Land Trust preserves land and promotes stewardship and education in order to conserve Tuckernuck Island's rare natural communities and unique coastal ecology.
We accomplish our mission by:
Preserving Tuckernuck Island's natural areas, historic and rural landscape, and coastal ecology
Monitoring and maintaining the health, integrity, and diversity of important species,
natural communities, and ecological processes
Providing outreach through information, education, and service
Cultivating a conservation-minded donor base
Developing partnerships with other environmental organizations
Tuckernuck landowners have a strong commitment to steward their land and to preserve the island's natural heritage. The homes and properties of many have been in their families for generations. As early as the mid-1980s, Tuckernuck landowners observed the initial surge of the building boom on neighboring islands, including its impact on the open landscape. With great foresight and resolve to protect Tuckernuck's significant coastal habitat, many landowners worked with local conservation organizations and placed permanent conservation restrictions on their properties.
Landowner Laura Hussey was instrumental in helping to formalize the residents' commitment to land preservation and establishing support for creating the Tuckernuck Land Trust, an organization to work closely with local conservation organizations but with a mission specific to Tuckernuck Island.
Thus, the Tuckernuck Land Trust was founded in 1996 by landowners and citizens concerned with protecting Tuckernuck Island's rural character and its largely undisturbed coastal plant and animal communities. Tuckernuck is part of Nantucket County, which in the 1990s was one of the fastest growing counties in Massachusetts. Fully aware of the destructive impact development has on natural habitat, the Land Trust's founding members took action to protect Tuckernuck Island's unique ecological attributes.
In its first ten years, to stem the tide of increasing development pressure, the Tuckernuck Land Trust worked with conservation partners, the Nantucket Land Council and The Nature Conservancy, on 20 separate land conservation projects, achieving the conservation of 59% of all the permanently protected land on Tuckernuck and eliminating 11 potential building sites. Today, in total, further development has been restricted on approximately 75% of the island.
The Tuckernuck Land Trust has employed a number of land protection strategies to leverage funds and preserve the greatest number of acres. TLT has bought land and received gifts of land to hold in perpetuity; it has placed conservation restrictions on key parcels while temporarily holding them; and it has assisted partner organizations with conservation projects. The Tuckernuck Land Trust works with landowners to tailor conservation strategies to meet the families' estate planning needs, while at the same time preserving Tuckernuck Island's outstanding natural habitat.
That preservation of the island's rich natural habitats is at the heart of the Tuckernuck Land Trust's work. The strength and resilience of plants and animals depend on the unbuilt landscape, where shifts in seasonal and climatic changes can be accommodated and a robust diversity of species can adapt and persist.
Phillip T. Summers
1st Vice President
Charles T. Howard
2nd Vice President
Joanne Coffin Johnsen
Susan E. Robinson
Virginia F. Andrews
Joseph S. Clark
Caleb N. Cressman
Charles T. Howard
Joanne Coffin Johnsen
Phillip T. Summers
Richard R. Veit, Ph.D.
Sita LaFarge Culman
Janet A. Nelson
Laura Hussey, Founder
Jennifer Ahlborn, Office Manager
Skyler Kardell, Coastal Steward
The core of the Tuckernuck Land Trust's conservation program is to protect land permanently, in order to preserve the island's natural communities and unique coastal ecology.
Tuckernuck Island sustains plant communities that are distinctive to the North Atlantic Region, including one of the last remaining intact occurrences of maritime grassland. It hosts several state-rare plant and animal species that are able to thrive in the harsh maritime conditions. The entire island of Tuckernuck has been identified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as Core Habitat, a critical component for protecting statewide biodiversity.
A number of land protection strategies are used to leverage funds and stretch dollars to preserve the greatest number of acres while working within a coastal region known to command high real estate prices.
TLT's priority is to preserve entire properties as open space. To achieve this, the Tuckernuck Land Trust purchases land and accepts gifts of land, which it holds in perpetuity. When landowners prefer to retain ownership of their property but are willing to preserve the property's conservation values permanently, TLT will assist facilitation of a conservation restriction to be placed on the property and be held by a partner land conservation organization. Some situations require creative solutions and involve more than one property transfer in order to preserve the most valuable habitat. In these instances, TLT may temporarily acquire a property that already has a house or is in a location preferable for development. A conservation restriction will be recorded, limiting further development and protecting the land's conservation values. Then the property will be resold or exchanged for a property that had previously been targeted for full protection in perpetuity. This scenario limits or directs development to areas with the least impact or fragmentation to the landscape and wildlife habitat.
Protecting one's land is a very personal decision. It requires careful and thorough consideration of one's family's interests and the future of the property. There are many reasons why people choose to preserve their land in perpetuity. Some have a deep generational tie to the land and since childhood have explored every inch and corner of their family's property. Others recognize that land preservation benefits species diversity. And many wish to preserve the beauty and richness of the natural landscape for future generations to enjoy.
Land Donation. Donating land for conservation ensures the land's permanent protection and guarantees that future generations will enjoy the cherished place. This fairly simple transaction transfers the title of the land, and its management responsibility, to the Tuckernuck Land Trust. Income and estate tax benefits may be available, and in some instances, donors may avoid capital gains taxes that would otherwise result from the sale of the property.
Bargain Sale of Conservation Land. The Tuckernuck Land Trust may purchase land with important natural resource or scenic values. In this instance, because real estate is quite expensive and funds must be raised, TLT might negotiate with the landowner for a "bargain sale" price. The difference between the appraised market value and the discounted purchase price is considered a tax-deductible charitable donation, and some landowners can benefit from a bargain sale of their property.
Conservation Restriction. A conservation restriction is a legal agreement that permanently protects the natural features of the land by limiting the type and scope of development on a property. The landowner continues to own the property, and the conservation restriction is upheld by a conservation organization. Conservation restrictions are permanent legal agreements and run with the land. The Tuckernuck Land Trust does not hold conservation restrictions, but we work closely with conservation partners who do accept them.
Remainder Interest. A landowner may wish to donate property to ensure that it will be preserved in perpetuity, but may also want to continue to live on or use the property during his or her lifetime. The landowner would reserve the right to continue to use the property by retaining a "life estate." The "remainder interest" is donated to the charitable organization. The landowner can continue to enjoy the property and know that it will be protected in perpetuity in the future. This gift may entitle the landowner to an income tax deduction.
Bequest. One simple way to make a gift of land to Tuckernuck Land Trust is through a will. Properties donated as a charitable bequest are not subject to federal estate tax.
To discuss land protection options, contact the Tuckernuck Land Trust at 508-228-2638.
Consult your legal and financial advisors for estate planning and large donations.
The Tuckernuck Land Trust works with its conservation neighbors and partners on projects that sustain Tuckernuck Island's outstanding natural landscape and support its native plant and animal communities. Cooperative land management projects include mowing to reduce an overabundance of woody species in sandplain grasslands and removal of invasive species. This cooperative spirit of managing whole ecosystems across property lines maintains and enhances the island's productive and diverse plant and animal populations.
A cornerstone of the Tuckernuck Land Trust's stewardship program is the monitoring of shorebirds during their springtime laying and incubation of eggs through their raising of young chicks for late summer flight. Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers nest and raise young on Tuckernuck beaches from early spring through mid-summer. The Tuckernuck Land Trust employs a Coastal Steward from May until August to fence and post nesting areas and to raise recreational beachgoers' awareness of the importance of providing a safe and undisturbed environment for both rare and common shorebirds to raise their young.
Natural Communities. In 2008, ecologist Robert Zaremba documented Tuckernuck Island’s current plant species to assess the quality of the island’s natural communities. A natural community is comprised of a group of plants and animals associated with an area of particular vegetative species and structure. For example, sandplain grasslands and maritime forest are two natural communities. Mr. Zaremba's survey for the Tuckernuck Land Trust documented four wetland species never before recorded for Tuckernuck, and one species not observed since 1910. More recently, efforts to update the catalog of Tuckernuck plants revealed at least one additional species never before recorded on the island. The health of Tuckernuck's natural communities establishes a base of support for the island's wildlife and increases the potential for species diversity. With no paved roads or public utilities, the island's natural areas have seen minimal disturbance and have largely been spared intrusion by invasive species.
Collaborative Support of Researchers. Since 2004, multi-year studies to inventory and monitor the biodiversity of Tuckernuck and its sister islands have been funded by the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative, a coalition of local conservation and education organizations, including the Tuckernuck Land Trust. Inventories and more in-depth research have revealed new information, such as:
Documenting, during a preliminary inventory, three lichen species considered to be old-growth indicators and now primarily restricted to mature stands in New England
Inventorying fungi, essential organisms that decompose organic materials and supply nutrients to many plants
Deciphering which ecological factors may be contributing to the unusually large populations of northern black widow spiders and red-legged purseweb spiders
Determining whether the distinct color patterns of island garter snakes is due to adaptive camouflage reflective of coastal habitats
TLT FIELD STATION
Recognizing the importance of land stewardship, research, and education to the overall preservation effort of the island's critical habitat, the Tuckernuck Land Trust purchased land and built a modestly sized Field Station on Tuckernuck to provide housing for both visiting researchers and our seasonal Coastal Steward. Researchers continue to reveal exciting discoveries on Tuckernuck each year, including plant and animal species that have not been previously recorded. Astonishingly, a few of these species are not known to exist on neighboring islands, nor are they known to live within the close proximity and densities that have been observed on Tuckernuck. The Tuckernuck Land Trust is working with landowners and partners to understand the ecological needs of Tuckernuck's diversity of life.
NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
The Tuckernuck Land Trust conducts natural history programs to heighten awareness of the island’s many natural wonders. These opportunities emphasize the importance of each participant’s role as a steward of Tuckernuck Island. During weekly summer programs led by TLT's Coastal Steward and guest naturalists, guided explorations into forests, grasslands, marshes, and the island’s surrounding waters, in addition to investigations focused on resident creatures, from shorebirds to sponges to bats, reveal intriguing curiosities of life.
NATURAL COMMUNITIES OF TUCKERNUCK
Tuckernuck’s natural communities can trace their distinction to the island’s very origins. When, during the last glacial episode, Tuckernuck Island was created by a terminal moraine, glacial till formed the higher elevations of rolling topography along the northern and central portions of the island. Glacial meltwater then drained seaward, forming outwash plains of well-drained sandy soils at lower elevations.
Oak Forest. The northern and central portions of the island are dry oak forest, dominated by white and black oak. The gnarled shape and stunted height of these old trees reflect the strong winds to which they were subjected during their growing phase. It is within this oak forest that a recent inventory documented three lichen species considered to be old-growth indicators. This community also includes black cherry and the shrubs shadbush and black huckleberry.
Shrub Swamp, Bog, Wet Meadow and Ponds. Wet communities are scattered around the island. Freshwater wetlands punctuate the oak forest and the island’s northern moraine. Shrub swamps, which occur in low-lying areas and also often buffer other freshwater wetlands, include some species also common to the oak forest, such as bayberry and northern arrowwood, as well as high bush blueberry. A sphagnum bog, lush masses of sphagnum moss in deep deposits of peat, creates an open area surrounded by a nearly impenetrable wet shrub thicket dominated by Virginia chain fern but also including cranberry, marsh St. John’s wort, and swamp candles. Ponds are surrounded by water-willow thickets and roosting Black-crowned Night Herons. In one pond, a cattail marsh is decorated by ragged fringed orchid. An area known as the Slough, running along a narrow north-south axis near East Pond, represents these communities: resembling a glacial outwash pond, it features open areas with standing water, a cattail stand, and a small wet meadow.
Scrub Oak Barrens. The scrub oak barrens transition between forest and grasslands. These stable communities form a dense canopy from species such as dwarf chestnut oak and smaller shrubs of northern arrowwood, bayberry, beaked hazelnut, whorled loosestrife, and Pennsylvania sedge.
Sandplain Grassland and Coastal Heathland. This community occurs on the south side of the island and in areas around the tidal ponds on the northwest and east ends. An example of a natural habitat that has been subsumed by development in much of the Northeast, Tuckernuck’s grassland occurrence is one of the largest remaining. Characteristic plants—little bluestem, spikegrass, asters, and goldenrods—are joined by sweet vernal grass and hair fescue, growth typical of post-agricultural pastures and evidence of Tuckernuck’s agrarian past. Because this habitat is increasingly rare, numerous state-listed rare plant species grow on Tuckernuck, including New England blazing star and sandplain blue-eyed grass. These grasslands support faunal species that are extremely rare in other parts of coastal New England and New York. Positioned adjacent to the shore and open ocean, grasslands serve as a significant refuge for both migrant species and species that compete well under severe maritime conditions.
Salt Marsh. Surrounding North Pond and East Pond are high and low salt marshes dominated by cordgrasses and spike and black grasses. Sea milkwort, which had not been documented on Tuckernuck since 1907, was located during a 2008 inventory; though not rare in Massachusetts, it had never been documented on Nantucket. Unlike most salt marshes today, only one of Tuckernuck’s marshes was subjected to ditching, and only minimally. At both ponds, there are scattered occurrences of salt pannes, marsh depressions that retain water after high tides and foster salt marsh sea blite and glasswort. In addition, where tidal areas grade gradually into uplands, salt shrub communities fringe both of Tuckernuck’s ponds and most of the marsh with groundsel tree and saltmarsh elder.
Beaches and Dunes. The driftlines along the back sides of the beaches feature a diversity of species, including sea rocket, orach, seaside goldenrod, and seabeach knotweed, in addition to oysterleaf, which is at its southern range on Tuckernuck. Where windblown sand accumulates in the east and west ends of the island, dunes are anchored by high densities of American beachgrass. The dunes are old and subject to frequent reworking by storms. Tuckernuck does not have older dune fields with more stable vegetation, but beachgrass has become dominant in areas on the southeast and west ends where sand has blown from the beach over glacial deposits.
We value your membership and welcome donations at all levels to assist in the protection of
Tuckernuck Island's rare natural communities and unique coastal ecology.
Donations and honorary or memorial gifts may be made online or by mail.
GIVE A GIFT OF SECURITIES
A gift of securities not only helps Tuckernuck Land Trust; it may also avoid a capital gains tax for you—consult your tax advisors. For information about transferring securities, please contact the TLT office by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 508-228-2638. It is important to let us know you plan to transfer securities so we may ensure proper credit.
Many companies offer matching gifts and other employee giving options, which may provide you with the opportunity to multiply your gift to the Tuckernuck Land Trust. Contact your human resources department to learn your options and obtain the appropriate forms. Mail completed forms, along with your donation, to: Tuckernuck Land Trust, P.O. Box 1093, Nantucket, MA 02554.