[Resources for journalists interested in this effort can be found on our media page.]
Secretary Salazar, Senator Cantwell, Congressman Larsen and Congresswoman DelBene celebrated the monument designation with an event in Anacortes on April 1st, 2013. There was a local community celebration on Lopez Island later that day. Both were standing-room-only gatherings. In addition, there were many editorials praising the President's action and the lands that it protected.
On March 21st news came out that President Obama would designate the BLM lands of the San Juan Islands as a national monument as of March 25th. The announcement and signing received significant press nationally. Below is a sampling.
As Congress started a new session and President Obama entered his second term, the community's desire to protect these lands continued to grow. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who was a great friend of this effort announced that he would step down as of March. Supporters suggested that completing the permanent protection of these precious places would be a great part of his legacy. Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray, Congressman Larsen and Congresswoman DelBene sent a joint letter to President Obama asking him to act during Salazar's term. Congressman Larsen also wrote a letter to Secretary Salazar with similar sentiments. The delegation appeal to act was joined by Governor Jay Inslee in his own letter to the President.
In February President Obama nominated Sally Jewell to succeed Salazar. As confirmation hearings were held for Jewell in March, the congressional delegation from northwest Washington re-introduced legislation to protect the BLM lands as the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area.
The San Juan County Economic Development Council voted in September to endorse the effort to protect the BLM lands in the San Juan Islands. Two national monument designations elsewhere by President Obama generated additional editorial interest in a monument here.
Environment Washington seized on Senator Cantwell's quote about doing everything short of getting a tattoo to show her support for a monument. They worked with a local artist to create a temporary tattoo that they distributed throughout the Puget Sound area and posted hundreds of photos of tattooed supporters on the Department of Interior's Facebook page.
Supportive op-eds were run by the Seattle Times and by the Puget Sound Business Journal in October.
The combined efforts of Environment Washington and the Dave Matthews Band generated over 2,000 additional letters from individuals to the administration.
The Sierra Club sent an action alert in July to its members in Washington which generated over 3,000 emails to President Obama - a state record for the club.
The Washington Tourism Alliance sent a letter in support of our efforts citing the economic benefits of the landscape. We hosted a visit to the BLM lands with some of Congressman Larsen's staff and regional leadership from the Bureau of Land Management. We had a booth at the San Juan County Fair in Friday Harbor which was visited by Senator Maria Cantwell and State Senator Kevin Ranker among many others - both locals and visitors.
Having started the summer with a letter from Representative Larsen to the administration, we finished with a letter from Senators Cantwell and Murray expressing their support for a national monument designation.
On April 3, 2012, the San Juan County Council unanimously voted to endorse Secretary Salazar's proposal of a presidential proclamation protecting these lands as a National Monument. They join hundreds of supporting groups and individuals including the Skagit County Board of Commissioners and the Samish Indian Nation in supporting this second path. By the end of April, Washington's Governor Christine Gregoire had also written a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar supporting the dual track approach.
We continued our public education efforts, sponsoring the Salish Landscapes series of talks on Lopez Island.
May brought strong editorial endorsements in the Seattle PI and the Journal of the San Juan Islands. The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau wrote to the administration in support of our efforts, and Asha Lela received a local environmental leadership award for chairing this effort.
June began with a letter from 156 local businesses asking President Obama to help.
The Islanders for the San Juan Islands NCA decided to pursue Secretary Salazar's offer of a presidential proclamation as a second path to our goal of permanent protection for the BLM lands in the islands assuming that the proclamation was based on the legislation that Rep. Larsen and Sen. Cantwell introduced.
A contingent of three islanders travelled to D.C. and met with staff in the offices of every member of the Washington State delegation - both House and Senate. They also met with several senior leaders as the BLM, including Director Bob Abbey. They heard broad support for the effort, signs of progress in the Senate, little chance of progress in the gridlocked House, and strong support from the senior levels of BLM and the Department of Interior.
We met with the San Juan County Council on March 20th to report on progress and ask the council to accept Secretary Salazar's offer of a presidential proclamation based on the legislation. The council put off that decision until their April 3rd meeting. Many citizens sent letters to the council and some letters to the editor in support of this motion.
The NCA bill in the Senate (S. 1559) had a subcommittee hearing on March 22nd, which went well and generated some local press. The Deputy Director of the BLM testified in support of the bill. His written testimony is available here.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senator Maria Cantwell held a Town Hall on February 18 to discuss the efforts to achieve permanent protection of the San Juan BLM lands. The press estimates over 150 people were there. The public expressed deep connections to the lands, a desire for them to remain natural and accessible, and a strong need for community involvement in managing the lands.
Secretary Salazar offered to propose to the President that these lands achieve their Conservation Land designation via a presidential proclamation rather than wait for the uncertain legislative process.
The BLM also reported on the secretary's earlier call for greater collaboration between conservation agencies in the islands, highlighting the first "Terrestrial Managers Workshop" on San Juan Island, in January 2012, which convened federal, state, county, non-profit and private conservation groups working in the islands to share ideas for working together.
In the fall of 2011, at Representative Larsen's request, a number of local organizations sent letters to Representative Hastings (Washington State delegate from Yakima who heads the House Natural Resources Committee) requesting a hearing on our legislation.
In November 2011 Interior Secretary Salazar sent a report to Congress listing 18 land conservation efforts across the nation that were "crown jewels" of our public lands and had "significant local support for congressional protection." The BLM lands in the San Juan Islands were highlighted in that report which garnered national press.
We continued our local public education about these amazing lands with a great hour-long radio special on Iceberg Point carried on the Lopez Island community radio station KLOI.
In September 2011, just days after receiving the unanimous support of the Whatcom County Council, we reached a major milestone in our efforts with the introduction of bills in both the House and Senate which would designate these lands as a National Conservation Area. We are very grateful to Representative Larsen and Senator Cantwell who sponsored the legislation.
We spent the summer of 2011 gathering local support for a National Conservation Area designation. We were a regular fixture at several of the local Farmers Markets and special events such as the San Juan County Fair, the Orcas Library Fair and the Tour de Lopez bike ride. We collected endorsement postcards from scores of local citizens to forward to Congress. We also met with local organizations ranging from the Lopez Lions Club to the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau with our story and gained their endorsements. We also received, in July, the support of the Skagit County Board of Commissioners.
In July, Senator Cantwell and Representative Larsen held a community listening session hosted by State Senator Kevin Ranker to explore our request for legislation designating these lands as Conservation Lands.
Pursuing Secretary Salazar's push for better collaboration, BLM, The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a joint listening session in Friday Harbor on August 25.
The BLM continued their Resource Management Plan outreach with a meeting in Friday Harbor on August 27.
We took advantage of the BLM officials visiting the islands to hold a public meeting on the NCA proposal on Lopez Island on August 28. Speakers included several supporters from the community, Daniel Picard (BLM's District Manager from Spokane), and Brian O'Donnell (Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation).
In April 2011, over a year after our first local press coverage, we hit the big time. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a public meeting in Anacortes. He listened well and spoke highly of the community-driven approach we were pursuing. He offered to help us pursue an NCA designation.
Salazar also asked the Interior Department agencies with lands in the islands (BLM, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service) to work collaboratively with each other and with local groups to help move conservation forward more effectively in the islands. That mandate, formalized in a memo in June, resulted in several good joint working sessions in the islands in 2011 and 2012.
Secretary Salazar's visit was preceded by a visit to Lopez Island by Marcilynn Burke, the Deputy Director of BLM, who had a chance to hike some of the lands with us.
In 2010, before we started gathering endorsements for a Conservation Lands designation, we were aware that many people in our community took these public lands for granted. Not only did people presume that they were permanently protected, but they were not aware which lands were managed by the BLM. To remedy that situation, we worked with the local newspapers to run a number of articles describing the lands and their management. This was the first time many people in the county heard of a National Conservation Area. At the same time, the BLM started public discussions for its Resource Management Plan process, which we encouraged the public to participate in.
Since a National Conservation Area designation would require congressional legislation, we began working with Representative Larsen, who visited Lopez Island to meet with NCA supporters in August, 2010.
Knowing that we would need the support of the County Council, we began presentations at their public meetings in the summer of 2010 and secured their unanimous support in November.
For more on how this effort got started, see the About Us page.
Photos: Iceberg Point monument and U.S. Capitol by Tom Reeve, Senator Cantwell by Gene Helfman, View from Patos Island by Linda Hudson, Protecting Nests on Indian Island by Shan Weston, Gathering Support and Congressional Listening Session by Tom Reeve, Ken Salazar by Linda Hudson