WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the announcement of a Presidential National Monument declaration for nearly 1,000 acres of federally owned land in the San Juan Islands. Cantwell will join President Obama for the signing ceremony in the Oval Office on Monday, March 25. The new designation will preserve the land and ensures public access for future generations.
In late January, Cantwell joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01) in urging the president to make this designation prior to the departure of the current Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Cantwell has been a leading proponent of preserving federal land on the San Juan Islands. She has advocated for preservation through either legislation she has introduced that would designate the land a National Conservation Area, or a Presidential National Monument declaration using authority granted to the president under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Today’s announcement means a long-term management plan will now be in place that permanently protects these lands. The Bureau of Land Management will continue to oversee the land.
"Where the San Juan Islands meet the sea are some of the most beautiful, serene spots in the world,” Cantwell said. “This decision will permanently protect these pristine spots for future generations to enjoy.
“This historic monument designation will ensure that 60 locations across the islands -- ranging from pine forests, to wind-swept beaches, to rocky outcroppings, to proud old lighthouses—will remain a permanent part of what makes the San Juans so special. These nearly 1,000 acres will provide recreational, ecological, historical, cultural, and scientific benefits to island residents and around 70,000 tourists that visit each year.
“Today the President recognized the tireless efforts of the many local residents and businesses that have been working for years to permanently protect these special spots,” Cantwell continued. “I also want to give particular thanks to Secretary Salazar, who came out twice to join Congressmen Larsen and me in listening to our local issues. For years to come, Washington residents will remember the commitment of Secretary Salazar in protecting these treasured lands.”
The citizen-driven effort to preserve this land has generated widespread, passionate support from the community. In February 2012, Cantwell, Salazar and members of the community held a public meeting in Anacortes to discuss federal efforts to preserve the land. In July 2011, Cantwell and Larsen held a community listening session in Friday Harbor to hear feedback on the effort to create a National Conservation Area. The effort to preserve the land is supported by Salazar, who visited the region in April 2011 to view the parcels proposed for protection and discuss the proposal with local stakeholders.
During the 112th Congress, Cantwell led legislation in the Senate with support from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) that would designate the land a National Conservation Area. Larsen led companion legislation in the House. Earlier this month, Cantwell reintroduced her legislation again with support from Murray. Larsen and DelBene introduced companion legislation in the House.
Permanent protection of the approximately 1,000 acres of federally owned land ensures the land remains in its current state and publicly accessible, despite higher use. The federally owned lands include over 60 locations that range from pine forests to lighthouses and are visited by more than 70,000 people every year.