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BLM's management plan for its lands in the San Juans: Public meeting June 5 in Friday Harbor

The Bureau of Land Management is working on possible changes to how it manages 445,000 acres of land in Washington state, including the San Juan Islands. And it wants your input.

BLM is hosting public meeting June 5, noon to 4 p.m., at Mullis Community Senior Center regarding revisions to its Resource Management Plan.

The revised plan will provide management direction for the next two decades for about 445,000 acres of BLM-administered public lands in Eastern Washington and in the San Juan Archipelago.

BLM owns and manages 900 acres in the San Juans, including 27 acres at Cattle Point. Other lands include more than 400 acres at Chadwick Hill, Iceberg Point, Point Colville and Watmough Bay on Lopez Island; Patos and Turn Point lighthouses; 31 small islands and more than 40 groups of rocks and reefs; 80 acres at Henry Island’s Kellet Bluff; and 80 acres at Turn Point on Stuart Island.

Many headland properties were originally set aside as U.S. Light House Service reserve lands. These lands feature quiet paths, rocky cliffs with nesting Peregrine falcons and cormorants, towering Douglas firs, nesting bald eagles, fields of wild flowers, diverse and rare plant communities, and haulouts for marine mammals.

BLM lands in the San Juans were on a list of proposed national monument sites. These lands are considered Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and are already protected: No camping, no development, no fires, no motorized vehicles. Pedestrian use only. National monument status could result in more resources for conservation. Some islanders have expressed concern about how national monument designation might affect the rights of neighboring property owners, and Citizens Alliance for Property Rights has hosted guest speakers on the topic, including state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

A group of local residents are advocating the lands be designated a National Conservation Area, to provide a long-term conservation management plan and the funding to support it. Since 2000, 21 National Conservation Areas in 10 states have been designated as places that have significant conservation, cultural, natural and scientific value.

Advocates say the process for National Conservation Area designation starts as a grassroots, community-based initiative. After input is gathered from the community, a case statement will be written and presented for approval by the San Juan County Council. Once approved, the next step is working with the state’s federal representatives and senators to create the legislation for the designation. This legislation is then added to the annual Consolidated Natural Resources Act for approval from U.S. Congress. This process could be completed in two years.

BLM said one of the primary reasons it is revising its Resource Management Plan is that, through a number of land exchanges, the lands managed by BLM in Washington state have changed, and total acres have increased by more than 100,000 since the previous plan was completed in 1987.

Another reason is that the demands and types of uses on BLM-administered public lands have changed, as have the conditions of the resources they contain. An Environmental Impact Statement will be developed during the planning process.

In this first opportunity for public comment, BLM is asking the public to help identify issues to be addressed in the plan revisions, as well as offer potential solutions. BLM will use the information as it prepares the draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

BLM is also seeking suggestions regarding land use issues which should be addressed in the plan. The public may comment on the preliminary planning criteria, which will help guide the planning process.

BLM will accept public comments through June 25. For more information or to have your name added to a mailing list, visit www.blm.gov/or/districts/spokane/plans/ewsjrmp; send an e-mail to OR_Spokane_RMP@blm.gov; or contact Scott Pavey at (509) 536-1200.

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