SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WASH. - Local groups and state representatives are pushing to put 1,000 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management property in the San Juan Islands into conservation—as either a National Conservation Area or a National Monument. Those acres include more than 60 locations around the San Juan Islands, ranging from pine forests to lighthouses. Almost half of the 1,000 acres is on the southern portion of Lopez Island.
More than 70,000 tourists visit these lands every year, and some islanders don’t want them to be developed or sold.
“These are beautiful lands,” said Asha Lela, chair of the Committee of Islanders for the San Juan National Conservation Area.
“They’re loved by the people. They’re loved by the tourists that come and what we’re asking is that these lands remain natural and accessible and the local community should have a leading role in managing these lands,” Lela said.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has proposed the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area Act, which would establish the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area. Declaring the land a National Conservation Area would not infringe on private property nearby. It would prevent the thousand acres from being sold for development and would also provide funding for land management.
If Cantwell’s bill doesn’t pass, conservation plan advocates plan to ask President Obama to declare the BLM land a National Monument.
Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, supports that move.
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