San Juan Islands National Monument

San Juan Islands National Monument

Monument Details

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“The permanent conservation of these natural and recreational resources means more than just preserving the beauty of our landscape, it’s also about maintaining our way of life and economic well-being. The San Juan Islands are a very special place for thousands of Washingtonians and tourists alike. By protecting these critical natural areas we are protecting thousands of jobs and industries that depend on them while preserving these brilliant vistas for our children and grandchildren,” Kevin Ranker, Washington State Senator and Former San Juan County Commissioner

The protection of the San Juan Islands will maintain its historical and cultural significance and enhance their unique and varied natural and scientific resources, for the benefit of all Americans.

The San Juan Islands form an unmatched landscape of contrasts, where forests seem to spring from gray rock and distant, snow-capped peaks provide the backdrop for sandy beaches. Numerous wildlife species can be found here, thriving in the diverse habitats supported by the islands. The presence of archeological sites, historic lighthouses, and a few tight-knit communities testifies that humans have navigated this rugged landscape for thousands of years.

These lands are a refuge of scientific and historic treasures and a classroom for generations of Americans.

The islands are part of the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. Native people first used the area near the end of the last glacial period, about 12,000 years ago.

Archaeological remains of the villages, camps, and processing sites are located throughout these lands. Scientists working in the San Juan Islands have uncovered a unique array of fossils and other evidence of long-vanished species. Ancient bison skeletons (10,000-12,000 years old) have been found in several areas, indicating that these islands were an historic mammal dispersal corridor.

The diversity of habitats in the San Juan Islands is critical to supporting an equally varied collection of wildlife. Marine mammals, including orcas, seals, and porpoises, attract a regular stream of wildlife watchers. Native, terrestrial mammals include black-tail deer, river otter, mink, several bats, and the Shaw Island vole. Raptors, such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons, are commonly observed soaring above the islands. Varied seabirds and terrestrial birds can also be found here, including the threatened marbled murrelet and the recently reintroduced western bluebird. The island marble butterfly, once thought to be extinct, is currently limited to a small population in the San Juan Islands.

Public Input

In 2010, the local community began working with Congressman Larsen (D-WA) to permanently protect the federal public land in the San Juan Islands. Rep. Larsen sought input from local groups and individuals, tribal interests and local governments in drafting the legislation.

In April 2011, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a public meeting in Anacortes. He offered to help the community pursue a legislative designation. In July 2011, Senator Cantwell and Representative Larsen held a community listening session hosted by State Senator Kevin Ranker to explore the community request for legislation protecting the BLM-managed lands as part of the National Conservation Lands.

On February 18, 2012, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) held a Town Hall to discuss the efforts to achieve permanent protection of the San Juan lands. The press estimated more than 150 people in attendance. At the meeting there was community agreement to support a dual approach of supporting legislation while additionally asking the president to take action.

In 2012, the San Juan County Council unanimously voted to support asking for a presidential proclamation. They joined the Samish Indian Nation, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners, the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, and the San Juan County Economic Development Council  in supporting this path. Washington’s Governor Christine Gregoire also wrote Secretary Salazar supporting the dual track approach. May 2012 brought strong editorial endorsements in the Seattle PI and the Journal of the San Juan Islands.

As Congress started a new session, Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray, Congressman Larsen and Congresswoman DelBene sent a joint letter to President Obama in January 2013 asking him to respond to the local community and take direct action during Interior Secretary Ken 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 2013.

On March 25, 2013, in response to the community, President Obama designated the BLM lands of the San Juan Islands as a national monument.

Hiking at Iceberg Point  in the San Juan Islands National Monument Photo Credit: Asha Lela, Islanders for San Juan Islands National Monument

Hiking at Iceberg Point in the San Juan Islands National Monument
Photo Credit: Asha Lela, Islanders for San Juan Islands National Monument