(Public News Service) Today, March 25, 2013, President Obama designates the San Juan Islands National Monument, a series of 75 small parcels of land scattered on multiple islands in three Washington counties, totaling about 1,000 acres. It is a goal local residents have sought for years, to protect scenic spots that contain historic lighthouses and fishing sites, hiking trails and habitat for birds and seals.
Tom Reeve, whose property borders one portion of the new national monument, said the area will benefit from the official planning process that comes with its new status.
"All of us are going to breathe a sigh of relief that we know these lands will be permanently protected. Then, we'll double our efforts to work with the Bureau of Land Management to make sure that the management plan that comes out of their current process is the best it can be."
The land is already under BLM control, and many San Juan residents have worked as volunteers with the agency on conservation projects. However, they were concerned that some day some parcels would be sold or developed.
The San Juans are often on national and even international lists of must-see destinations. Their state senator, Kevin Ranker (Dist. 40), predicted this will be an added boost for the local economy.
"We see time and time again, when these sorts of designations take place, there's an uptick in tourism and tourism-associated revenue," Ranker said. "That's really important, particularly at a time like this, when many people are just barely coming out of the economic recession we've had."
A bill in Congress to accomplish the same protections had been stalled as part of a backlog of public lands legislation in the House. The official announcement will take place in Washington, D.C., today, when President Obama also will name four other new national monuments.