Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Community-led Protection of the San Juans

Patos Lighthouse on BLM land (PHOTO Tom Reeve)
Gandhi said: “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”

We might have a good example this Saturday when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Senator Maria Cantwell hold a public meeting to discuss the progress that has been made, and is ongoing, to conserve and protect the San Juan Islands. The meeting starts at 10:30 AM in the Anacortes Senior Center, 1701 22nd Street. RSVP required by 12 PM (PST) Feb. 17.

For the local community, this is a great chance to thank the Secretary and the Senator for their support of the community-led efforts and a time to re-iterate to them the importance of permanently protecting these cherished lands.

The local group spearheading the effort, Islanders for the National Conservation Area, writes:

“In the late 1980s a group of Lopez Island residents formed the Friends of Chadwick Hill to prevent the logging of a local landmark which ultimately led to the protection of Chadwick Hill and Watmough Bay. The effort also built a long and supportive relationship with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages about 1,000 acres spread across the San Juan Islands. BLM currently manages 450 acres of its lands in the San Juans as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. These lands are not currently threatened, but are not under permanent protection. A few other sites are co-managed with Washington State Parks, but the remaining acreage currently has no specific planning or protection.

“Some of those original members of Friends of Chadwick now form the core of the Islanders for the National Conservation Area, which is focused on having the BLM lands in our islands officially designated as Conservation Lands to ensure their permanent protection.

“Those efforts reached a major milestone in September when Representative Larsen and Senator Cantwell introduced bills in Congress to officially designate the BLM lands in the islands as the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area. That legislation requires the BLM to manage its lands for conservation and recreation and directs the BLM to work closely with the community to build a management plan for those lands. The legislation doesn’t call for any additional acquisition of land and explicitly limits its impact to land owned by the BLM, with no impact on surrounding private lands.

“Those bills are now awaiting action in Congress. While the supporters are pleased with our delegation’s support of the bills, getting the legislation passed into law will be challenging in the current congressional climate. Several supporters are planning a trip in March to the other Washington to meet with congressional staff and officials at the BLM to help move things forward on the Conservation Lands designation.

“For more information on the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area effort, including maps of the BLM lands and the text of the legislation, visit the web site  or send an email.

“For some activities happening on BLM lands in the San Juans visit: Iceberg Point Bird Survey; Indian Island Marine Observatory, Tides of March event March 15; Lopez Island Conservation Corp, Watmough work party February 23 ; Keepers of the Patos Light; Turn Point Lighthouse Preservation Society; Washington Water Trails, Blind Island work party May 5.”

If you can’t make the meeting, visit the San Juan Islands NCA web site  to learn more about how to support this community-driven effort.

--Mike Sato

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