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Wild: San Juan Islands National Monument

Turn Point Island
Turn Point Light Station, Stuart Island, San Juan Islands, Washington (Photo: Bureau of Land Management)

Almost 1,000 acres of islands, located among pinnacles and reefs in Washington State’s Puget Sound, make up the brand-new San Juan Islands National Monument. The site is one of five unique landmarks that President Obama declared as national monuments Monday, granting them critical federal protection.

Rare -- even ancient -- wildlife inhabits the San Juan Islands, where bald eagles, marine mammals like baby seals, seabird colonies, and 600-year-old trees reside. The area is also steeped in history, and is home to storied lighthouses on both the Patos and Turn Point Islands, along with culturally significant Native American sites, such as ancient fishing grounds and camas gardens.

Thanks to local community efforts and support from the San Juan County Council, State Senator Kevin Ranker, Representatives Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Governor Jay Inslee and, ultimately, President Obama, the lush green and rocky islands will be protected for generations to come.

ObamaMonumentsSigningIn addition to the spectacular lands legacy that President Obama has started for himself by adding this and four other sites as national monuments Monday, this designation also adds to the legacy of Ken Salazar, departing Secretary of the Interior. Secretary Salazar’s vision and leadership was crucial for obtaining permanent protection for these lands.

The San Juan Islands National Monument will not only benefit the area in terms of environmental and cultural conservation, but will also have significant economic benefits. The Outdoor Industry Association sets the outdoor and recreation economy of Washington at a whopping $22.5 billion a year, and estimates that it employs 226,000 local workers. The San Juan Islands will add to those numbers -- with new opportunities for visitors to kayak, hike, bird watch, whale watch, and enjoy other recreational activities on the islands. The monument will bring more tourists to the beautiful, protected site and encourage economic growth.

The region’s unique wildlife and cultural sites will thrive under federal protection, and visitors will be able to more fully enjoy and learn about all that the islands have to offer. There are many other landscapes within our nation that deserve similar protection, so the Sierra Club will continue to work with the president to build upon his growing lands legacy and safeguard those precious places as well. You can send President Obama a “thank you” note and urge him to keep up the momentum on protecting our wild America.

--Kristen Elmore, Sierra Club Media Team Intern

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