Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senator Maria Cantwell held a Town Hall meeting on February 18th to discuss the protection of BLM lands in the San Juan Islands. Over 150 people attended and had the opportunity to express their views.
There were three consistent messages from the audience members who spoke:
- These lands are special places that the community cares deeply about
- These lands should remain natural and accessible
- The local community should have a leading role in managing these lands
Concerns were expressed about the impact of visitors to these lands and the risk of future management decisions going against the community's wishes.
We are proud to be pursuing a course to address these issues directly. Representative Larsen and Senator Cantwell have drafted and introduced legislation on behalf of the community that would designate these lands as Conservation Lands within BLM.
A Conservation Lands designation as spelled out in the legislation
would require the BLM to hold and manage these lands to protect their ecological, recreational, historic and cultural values. The legislation also requires the BLM to work directly with the local community to develop and implement the management plan for these lands.
These are federally owned lands. Rather than give the federal government more control over these lands, the legislation puts community-designed restrictions on the BLM's future actions to ensure that these lands will be available for future generations . By giving the community an explicit role in the development of management plans we provide the community a strong voice in decisions affecting these lands.
Secretary Salazar spoke of his past work helping other communities protect their cherished lands. As a former senator, he understands the frustration of not knowing if or when we can achieve protection through passage of legislation. He offered to, if the community wants, propose to the President that these lands achieve their Conservation Lands designation via a presidential proclamation rather than wait for the uncertain legislative process.
Islanders for the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area believe that our goal of permanent protection for the BLM lands in the San Juan Islands with a strong community voice in their management could be achieved via a presidential proclamation if that proclamation was based on the legislation Senator Cantwell and Representative Larsen have drafted on behalf of the community.
We look forward to working with Senator Cantwell, Representative Larsen and Secretary Salazar to pursue both the congressional and presidential paths. We encourage the community to join us in endorsing this dual-track approach to achieving the goals of a San Juan Island National Conservation Area. Whether via legislation as a National Conservation Area or via a presidential proclamation as a National Monument, our goal remains the same - to pursue a Conservation Lands designation
that provides for permanent protection for the BLM lands of the San Juan Islands and a strong community voice in their management.