Preservation Trust inks deal for 111 more acres on Turtleback

A view of the Turtleback Mountain ridge line, on Orcas.   - Contributed photo
A view of the Turtleback Mountain ridge line, on Orcas.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The San Juan Preservation Trust has acquired property on Orcas Island which will add more than 140 acres to the Turtleback Mountain Preserve, permanently protecting the entire ridgeline of the mountain.

The iconic turtle-shaped profile of Turtleback Mountain is recognizable from throughout the San Juan archipelago. In 2006, thanks to an outpouring of public support, 1,578 acres of the mountain were saved from development.

The 30-acre “head” of the turtle, donated to the San Juan Preservation Trust in 1990, is separated from Turtleback Mountain Preserve by 111 acres of privately-held property. When the owners began to prepare their property for residential development, they learned of the Preservation Trust’s interest. After months of negotiation, the parties agreed on a $1 million purchase price.

The San Juan Preservation Trust quickly identified $600,000 towards the purchase price, including $500,000 from its own investment funds and $100,000 from four other donors. After a summer fundraising effort yielded an additional $390,000, the Preservation Trust’s board of trustees unanimously agreed to proceed with the project.

The acquisition expands the Turtleback Preserve to include the 111 acres of purchased property and the 30-acre turtle’s head, with its stunning 360-degree views of surrounding islands. This addition ensures that the entire Turtleback Mountain ridgeline will remain undeveloped, and enables creation of a new day hike to a premier destination that has – until now – been inaccessible to the public.

The Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank are working to merge the three properties into a single preserve, with the same shared ownership arrangement established for the Turtleback Mountain Preserve.

This partnership and the Washington Trails Association will work together over the next several months to design and build a public trail connecting the Turtleback Mountain Preserve with summit of Turtlehead.

The Preservation Trust needs $160,000 to reach a total project goal of $1.15 million. The funds are needed for the purchase price, trail building expenses and a small stewardship endowment.

To help complete this project, or for more information about the campaign and plans for public access, please visit, or contact Tim Seifert, Executive Director, at 360-468-3202.


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