BLM Lands in the San Juans

The Bureau of
Iceberg Point Bird Survey by Michael Reeve
Land Management (BLM) manages about 1,000 acres in the San Juans. Spread over about 75 sites, they include dozens of the small islands and reefs that provide breeding grounds for birds and safe refuges for everything from harbor seal pups to rare plants. These lands also shelter historical sites - from ancient fishing sites and camas gardens to pre-automation light houses on Patos Island and Turn Point. And they include popular recreation destinations in the islands like Iceberg Point, Chadwick Hill and Watmough Bight on Lopez; the campgrounds on Patos Island, Posey Island and Blind Island; and the site of the Cattle Point lighthouse on San Juan Island.
The map below is the official map of the sites that BLM manages. The Conservation Lands designation will apply to the BLM-owned lands found within the green boundary on the map. BLM lands outside that line and other properties within the boundary will be unaffected.
Map of proposed NCA
Click on the image to view the full map (5MB PDF).

Community Supported Lands

BLM lands in the San Juan Islands are visited by tens of thousands of people every year – and that number keeps growing. Many islanders help protect these places and make sure that they don’t fall victim to their popularity. The Turn Point Lighthouse Preservation Society works to help restore that light station. The Keepers of the Patos Light helps manage and interpret that site. These lands have been improved by work crews from the Lopez Island Conservation Corps, Microsoft, Washington Water Trails Association, the American Hiking Society and others. Another two dozen volunteers help the BLM monitor their properties in the islands year round as part of an award winning program.
While BLM has been a reliable neighbor to our communities and has done a solid job of stewarding these properties, they are also a very large agency for which these lands are not typical. BLM manages hundreds of millions of acres, mostly western rangeland. BLM has the authority to sell its lands and the obligation to consider proposals for grazing, mining, energy production and other uses unless the lands are specifically withdrawn from those programs.
A number of islanders have been looking for ways to ensure that these lands in the San Juans are protected permanently and that the community be given a strong voice in their management. In essence, we want to put limits on what the federal government can do with its lands and require that they work with the community in their planning.Toward that end, we advocated to have these special places declared Conservation Lands.
Here are just a few of the many attributes that make these lands special.
Recreational Opportunities

These lands surrounding the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway are very heavily used for recreation. Cattle Point receives 15,000 visitors per year, Watmough Bay 15,000, Iceberg Point 10,000, Turn Point 10,000, Blind Island 7,500, Indian Island 6,000, Patos Island 5,500 and Posey Island 2,000. Recreation opportunites on these lands include:

  • Hiking – 7 miles of established trails
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Photography
  • Boating – including sites managed by Washington State Parks
  • Picnicking
  • Camping – Patos, Blind and Posey Islands are cooperatively managed with Washington State Parks
  • Sea kayaking – including Cascadia Marine Trail sites
  • Fishing and Hunting (under county restrictions on firearms)
Cultural Sites
  • Patos Island, Turn Point, Cattle Point – Lighthouses registered as State Historic Structures (see Light on the Island by Helene Glidden - daughter of lighthouse keeper 1905-1913) 
  • Numerous state registered archaeological sites including sites showing occupation for approximately 3,000 years.
  • Extensive Coast Salish camas cultivation sites 
  • Blind Island, Watmough Bay – Historic homesteads 
  • Kellett Bluff – Reef-net cabins 
  • Reads Bay Island – Kelp mill
Unique Ecology

Many rare plants call these lands home:

  • Patos Island – Columbia Lilies, Oak Fern, Orchids (Spiranthes, Calypso, Piperia, Corallorhiza), Brittle Prickly Pear
  • Iceberg Point – Slender Crazyweed, White Topped Aster, Brittle Prickly Pear, California Buttercup, Showy Jacob’s Ladder, diverse and rare lichens
  • Point Colville – Brittle Prickly Pear, Grape Fern (Botrychium), diverse and rare lichens
  • Numerous populations of Coastal Juniper (local endemic)

Several sites include ancient trees:

  • Iceberg Point and Point Colville – 500-600 year old trees
  • Kellett Bluff – Ancient Garry Oak
  • Point Colville – Spruce bog with old Sitka Spruce

These sites protect some of the vanishing prairie landscape in the islands:

  • Iceberg Point and Point Colville – Native grasses - Roemer’s Fescue, Red Fescue, California Oatgrass and native flowering plants

And the lands are home to island wildlife:

  • Cattle Point – Island Marble Butterfly
  • Chadwick Hill, Kellett Bluff, Turn Point – Peregrine Falcon nesting sites
  • Patos Island – Refuge for native mollusks (slugs and snails)
  • Numerous marine mammal haul out sites
  • Seabird colonies
  • Iceberg Point and Point Colville – High raptor density
  • Turn Point, Patos Island, Kellett Bluff – Eagle nesting sites

BLM Lands in the San Juan Islands