San Juan Island, WA – Yesterday, elected officials, conservation groups, business leaders, and community members celebrated Washington’s newest national monument, the San Juan Islands National Monument. The monument will permanently protect close to 1,000 acres of land in the San Juans, on Monday with the designation of the San Juan Islands National Monument. The region, which will continue to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), encompasses nesting grounds for bald eagles, shorelines where visitors can spot passing seals and orcas, and stands of old growth forest.
In Anacortes, Department of the Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, spoke about the new monument, highlighting the islands’ ecological and historical value as well as the local input and support in the designation process.
“The designation of San Juan Islands National Monument by President Obama culminates years of locally driven conservation efforts to ensure this treasured landscape will be conserved for future generations to enjoy,” said Secretary Salazar. “Through tourism and outdoor recreation, the San Juan Islands will continue to be a huge economic engine for the local communities and the State of Washington.”
Salazar was joined by Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Rick Larsen, both long time advocates of protecting the federal lands on the islands. “President Obama’s designation of the national monument in the San Juan Islands is the culmination of years of persistence by environmental and business leaders who built consensus and remained resolute in their mission,” said Congressman Larsen. “The national monument designation will protect this resource for residents and visitors today and in the future.”
Following the event on Anacortes, the Congressman joined the community on Lopez Island to continue celebrating the new national monument by kayaking and hiking. The event was attended by historical groups, members of the Obama administration, and conservation groups.
“The San Juan Islands National Monument will not only protect some of the most beautiful public lands in Washington, but it is also a reflection of deep community values,” said Robb Krehbiel, Program Associate with Environment Washington. “For years, San Juan Islanders and Washingtonians have been urging our leaders to protect these islands. They are special to us, and we could not be happier that the administration has official protected them for generations to come.” Environment Washington was known in the campaign for its unique tactics such as having supporters put on temporary tattoos in support of the San Juan Islands National Monument.
Community members, many of whom have been pushing for permanent protection of the federal land for years, were ecstatic with the new monument designation. The public event held at the Lopez Community Center was organized primarily by local activists Tom and Sally Reeve.
“These BLM lands are treasured by the local community, including scores of volunteers who help care for them,” said Tom Reeves, one of the founding members of Islanders for the National Conservation Area in the San Juan Islands. “Our elected officials, and now the president, have heard the community’s plea to protect these lands. Now that our BLM lands are permanently designated for conservation, we know they will be protected and cared for so that our grandchildren can enjoy them as we have. We look forward to continuing to work with BLM to care for these precious places.”
Over the past few years, more than 200 businesses have called upon President Obama to protect the scenery of the islands that fuels the regions tourism. Over 5,000 Washingtonians have come out in support of protecting the region, including Gov. Jay Inslee. Other organizations and communities support the declaration, such as the Samish Indian Nation, the Washington Tourism Alliance, and the Lummi Island Heritage Trust.
In addition to creating the San Juan Islands National Monument, the president designated four other national monuments, including Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, the Harriet Tubman Park in Maryland, the First State National Monument in Delaware, and the Carles Young Baffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
Environment Washington is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy organization dedicated to clean air, clean water, and open space. For more information, please visit www.environmentwashington.org