We all know the San Juan Archipelago is a very special place. Right now, we have an opportunity to insure that some of our most beloved public lands are permanently protected.
As a longtime resident of San Juan Island I am supporting the current efforts to designate one thousand acres of BLM properties in the islands as either a National Conservation Area via Congressional legislation or a National Monument via presidential proclamation.
These areas include Cattle Point, Iceberg Point, Watmough Bight, Blind Island, Turn Point and Patos lighthouses, Kellett Bluff, and dozens of small islets and reefs that are important seabird and marine mammal breeding areas.
I will use as an example of the value of these BLM properties a site I know well on San Juan Island: Cattle Point. This profoundly beautiful and rich biological landscape is an important recreational area for islanders, home to countless species of resident wildlife as well as a vital summer breeding area and extremely critical stopover during spring and fall migration for birds and butterflies, and a major tourist attraction. The land has deep cultural significance going back thousands of years. Cattle Point is well known to islanders and tourists alike as a beloved place to walk, picnic, relax, and watch wildlife.
Consider please, what the south end of San Juan Island would be like if this property was removed from public domain. It could happen. Priorities change, and short-term economic expedience could see our land surplussed out of public use. Loss of access to BLM's portion of Cattle Point would be a stunning blow to islanders and to wildlife.
Cattle Point and other BLM lands are already under federal jurisdiction. No new lands are being acquired. Adjacent private lands, private property rights, boating and fisheries are not in jeopardy. Quite the contrary, one of the reasons I am supporting this effort is that local control over these areas will be enhanced as we work together with BLM in land use planning for these areas - both for people and for wildlife.
I have spent many years doing wildlife surveys, educational outreach, and other work at Cattle Point as elsewhere in the islands. This piece of land - as all the BLM properties under consideration for conservation status - is vital to protect.
From a pragmatic standpoint, these sites are extremely important to our local economy. Tourists come to enjoy these wild places and they put millions of dollars into our economy supporting local jobs. For those who wish to keep management of public lands under local control, what better way to demonstrate your commitment to this goal than to work in active partnership with islanders and with BLM to insure these precious lands remain protected for all people and wildlife to enjoy and thrive upon, and to be managed in a manner that is consistent with the wishes of our local communities.
We have a great opportunity at hand. Many years from now we - and our descendants - can look back with a great deal of pride to the fact that islanders with varying philosophies came together to protect precious and important parts of our beloved landscape and its wildlife, our history, our culture, our community, and our future - a fine legacy, indeed.
For today, I am going to head down to Cattle Point and see what is happening as we move into spring. Yesterday the meadowlarks were still singing, the harriers hunting over the grass, and black oystercatchers foraging on the rocks below the lighthouse. Spring songbirds are beginning to arrive; some will head for the willow grove to find nesting sites. And when the lupine blooms next month and brushes the dunes with shades of blue, several species of butterflies will emerge and flutter by. That might be a good time to take a stroll at this very special place and lift your spirits. After all, it belongs to all of us hopefully for generations to come.
I strongly urge your support to permanently protect BLM lands, including Cattle Point, in the San Juan Islands. Your County Council members are waiting to hear from you. Comments due by April 3rd.
Contact Information - San Juan County Council members :
Richard Fralick - Orcas West, firstname.lastname@example.org (360) 370-7474
Patty Miller - Orcas East, email@example.com, (360) 370-7467
Rich Peterson - San Juan North, firstname.lastname@example.org (360) 370-7468
Lovel Pratt - San Juan South, email@example.com, (360) 370-7473
Howie Rosenfeld - Friday Harbor, firstname.lastname@example.org, (360) 370-4769
Jamie Stephens - Lopez/Shaw, email@example.com, (360) 370-7475