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United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar backs protection of SJ’s in DC

United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made a recommendation to Congress Nov. 10 that federal lands, or “Crown Jewels”, in the San Juan Islands deserve permanent protection.

Sen. Maria Cantwell is leading legislation in the Senate that would turn several dozen “cherished” spots spread across the San Juan Islands into a National Conservation Area for continued public access and protection.

Cantwell is known as a strong advocate for preservation of Washington’s natural landscape.

On San Juan, she led the effort to secure federal funding to prevent a private, out-of-state real-estate developer from obtaining ownership of Mitchell Hill.

U.S. Rep Rick Larsen is leading companion legislation in the House.

“The San Juan Islands should be preserved for not only residents and visitors today, but for future generations,” Larsen said. “This designation shows that there is a compelling case to create a San Juan National Conservation Area and protect this land for recreation and enjoyment.”

Secretary Salazar visited the San Juan Islands in April to view parcels proposed for protection and discuss the proposal with local stakeholders. He has asked the Bureau of Land Management to coordinate with a committee of local groups to prepare for a transition.

“Washingtonians should be proud of this national recognition of the unforgettable natural treasures of the San Juan Islands,” Cantwell said. “More than 700,000 tourists come to experience these scenic parcels every year. And with visitor traffic increasing, it’s time to have a clear management plan in place to protect these crown jewels. This locally-driven plan will ensure these cherished lands remain protected, accessible to the public, and better managed to accommodate continued visitor use and enjoyment.”

In late July, Cantwell and Larsen held a community listening session in Friday Harbor to hear feedback from nearly 30 people on the effort to create a NCA — ensuring that approximately 1,000 acres of federally-owned lands remain in their natural state and publicly accessible.

The federally-owned lands include over 60 locations ranging from pine forests to lighthouses and are visited by more than 70,000 tourists every year.

“The San Juan Islands should be preserved for not only residents and visitors today, but for future generations,” Larsen said. “This designation shows that there is a compelling case to create a San Juan National Conservation Area and protect this land for recreation and enjoyment.”

Community Events, April 2014

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