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11/01/2012

It’s Time for a San Juan Island National Monument

WA Sierra Club Members Join Veterans and San Juan Islanders for Tour of San Juan Island National Monument

Outings Participants at Watmough Bay

Earlier this month almost 20 participants including Sierra Club members, a member of the Veteran Conservation Corps, a board member from Vet Voice Foundation and a number of local conservation leaders and Bureas of Land Management staff toured federal BLM lands on Lopez Island. These remarkable sites are some of the approximately 60 sites within the proposed San Juan Islands National Monument. Participants explored two areas within the proposed national monument. The first was a dramatic rain-shadow landscape on the southwestern shore of Lopez Island, known locally as Iceberg Point.

Walking to Iceberg PointParticipants explored the wind whipped prairie, westward shores and geological wonders this short hike offers. Local BLM staffer, Nick Teague passed along information on the area’s history, geology and ecology. The highlight was Iceberg Point’s dramatic views of the straights of Hidalgo and Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains; the latter emboldened and intensified by fall sun streaming through thin gaps in the otherwise overcast skies. For participants, such luck only emphasized why this location deserves the lasting protecting national monument designation for the island’s BLM lands offers.

The second and final stop on the day’s tour was a short hike to local gem and historical wonderland, Watmough Bay. Located on Lopez Island’s southeast shore, Watmough is a quiet bay and beach prized for its beauty, wildlife viewing, historic significance and archeological wonder. From the shores of Watmough beach, outing participants enjoyed homemade brownies and heard about the local pre and post euro-history from a local conservationist and BLM staff ranger, and then took a mile long hike on the adjoining ridge to get a better sense of adjacent BLM lands included in the proposal.

Lopez Island is a lesser traveled and at first glimpse, less dramatic landscape than some of the better known islands in the San Juan archipelago. The effects thereof surely play a role in shaping the island’s far-away charm and strong community bond. “Slowpezians,” a name lovingly given to Lopez Island inhabitants by their fellow San Juan islanders, are truly a unique breed. Strong minded, opinionated and passionate about protecting the landscape and way of life on the little island they call home. It takes only a short time on Lopez to realize why the year-round inhabitants hold such pride for their island home.

Things truly move slower on Lopez; fondness and sense of place are intensified by the familial setting island life offers. A San Juan Island National Monument only compliments these feelings. The monument would not only protect a way of life and source of recreation for local islanders, but also be an important tourist draw for the island, seasonal economic fuel for the local economy.

Currently, the San Juan National Monument has support from over 150 businesses in San Juan County. Recently, the San Juan County Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the monument designation. From Lopez to Orcas, to Waldren to San Juan Island itself, local support for the monument designation is strong. As development pressure only increases on these lands, it makes sense to give these precious federal BLM islands, beaches and historical landscapes the permanent protection they deserve. As all those on the outing surely agreed, it is time to give the BLM lands in the San Juan Islands the permanent protection they need and merit. Yes, it is time for the Obama Administration to designate a San Juan Island National Monument.

-- By Ben Greuel, Washington Chapter Outings leader and volunteer

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