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Cape Cod and the Islands Group

The Cape Cod & Islands Group covers the entire Cape region.

Conservation Priorities - What we're working on

Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR)

The Cape Cod Group has been working on a variety of issues at the Massachusetts Military Reservation since 1989, when the Cape Cod Group was founded and the MMR was added to the federal list of Superfund cleanup sites. The MMR sits at the top of the groundwater lens on the Upper Cape, which supplies drinking water for the citizens of this region. Military training at the site began in the 1940's, and toxics from these activities have polluted large portions of Cape Cod's sole source aquifer for drinking water. There are two areas of main concern within the MMR: Otis Air Force Base (AFB) in the southern half and Camp Edwards in the northern half. In addition to groundwater contamination from these sites, potential environmental and human health concerns are associated with a radar system operated by the U.S. Air Force within the MMR.  For more information, please click here.

Wastewater Challenge On Cape Cod

The quality of the coastal waters of Cape Cod is important to fishing, tourism, and the sense of place amongst residents, and therefore is a treasured resource. With population increases in both seasonal and year-round residents, however, water quality is being threatened by human activity. Usage of fertilizer on public and private lands and sewage discharge from septic systems, both of which contribute to chemicals in water run-off, has elevated the levels of nitrogen in area watercourses. This excess nitrogen has degraded not only the general water quality, but has also threatened the viability of numerous plant and animal species that rely on these watercourses.  

The Cape Cod Group would like to develop activists in each town to follow the process of addressing this issue, to see where we can help the towns meet their wastewater challenge. We will lobby local/state/federal officials to move forward and find ways to implement the plans. With help at all levels, from officials to citizens, we can reduce the nitrogen levels and recover water quality, improving Cape Cod’s most precious resource for the benefit of all – plants, animals, and people. For more information, please click here.

Environmental Justice Efforts

Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard continue to develop. One of the big questions in the area is still, 'Will people of all races, cultures, and economic classes continue to enjoy the area or will the region become a haven for the wealthy?’ Housing and energy costs are high and traditional industries, like commercial fishing and agriculture, are threatened for a variety of reasons. The Wampanoag people on Cape Cod are concerned about their cultural survival. Access to public beaches and other public resources has been illegally restricted in some areas, toxic dumping and the effects of past dumping is still a problem, and Cape Cod is now experiencing problems like sprawl and overcrowding that were once associated with urban and suburban communities. By working for environmental justice, the Cape Cod Group hopes to bring human rights concerns and environmental protection concerns closer together. The Cape Cod Group is especially concerned about protecting drinking water supplies, reducing exposures to toxics, and promoting energy conservation and fuel assistance programs for families in need. For additional information, contact Bob Murphy by email or 508-563-5948.

Off-Road Vehicles

Usage of Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) in forests and protected wildlands, such as the Cape Cod National Seashore, is a potentially damaging activity, due not only to physical damage to vegetation caused by vehicles, but also to concerns of exhaust and noise pollution. The Cape Cod Group recently researched and wrote the basis of the Massachusetts Sierra Club response to the MA DCR Draft proposal concerning Criteria for ORV road building in public lands. We determined that ORV trails and areas on public lands should be closed to all vehicles, unless their use is deemed appropriate after complete financial, safety, and environmental analysis and review.

Neither the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) nor user groups have successfully enforced existing rules, even when trails have been closed. Because existing problems have not been fixed, no new ORV trails should be contemplated. In the greater Cape Cod Area, the DCR closed Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth to ORV use in 2005 due to concerns of misuse and environmental damage.

The Cape Cod group hopes that more of such actions will be taken in order to protect fragile ecosystems from damage. We continue to press the National Park Service to honor their pledge to periodically assess ORV damage with impartial, peer-reviewed scientific studies.


To learn more about the environmental issues your local Sierra Club group is working on, please contact  

Click here for Group events

Volunteer Opportunities:

1. Science/ Ocean members can assist our Experts/ Activists with a framework of development Offshore Alternative Energy Resources.

2. Members who support peace can assist with our investigation of the effects of war on the environment.

3. A member who can attend one 2-hour Monday evening meeting per month as secretary, plus an additional 2-4 hours on your own computer and time.

Group Executive Committee 2011

David Dow,
Group Chair

Robert F. Murphy,  Group Vice-Chair

Billie Bates

Kirsten Moritz

Martha Gillis



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