Opinion

Optimism rises in Vendovi campaign | Guest Column

Vendovi Island is located seven miles north of Anacortes.   - Contributed image / SJPT
Vendovi Island is located seven miles north of Anacortes.
— image credit: Contributed image / SJPT

Submitted by San Juan Preservation Trust

Three years ago, Vendovi Island was put up for auction.

As the most pristine large island under single ownership in the entire San Juan archipelago, conservationists had long targeted Vendovi as a priority for protection. Upon learning of its pending sale, the San Juan Preservation Trust set out to build a partnership with other non-profits and government agencies to participate in the auction.

Our requests were politely but swiftly rebuffed (“not enough time” and “too big of a risk” they all told us). Recognizing that this was an opportunity for the ages, our board of trustees pushed fear aside and took a bold (and unprecedented) risk by borrowing $3.4 million to purchase the island for $6.4 million.

We anticipated that raising money to pay off a loan would be a challenging task. We developed a contingency plan that involved re-selling the island with some conservation protection, an action that we knew would preclude public access. We understood that our task had to include an introduction to a remote place that few of our donors had ever seen or even heard about. This was not another Turtleback Mountain.

A local island family then stepped up with an offer to help. To inspire fellow islanders to give, they challenged us with a three-year, $1 million challenge grant.

As we’ve introduced people to this remote and mysterious island, we have been gratified by the response. So far over 350 households have generously supported the "Campaign to Save Vendovi Island,” and many of these contributors have made multiple gifts. We are pleased to announce that we have successfully met the requirements of the $1 million challenge grant and have reduced the outstanding loan balance from $3.4 to $1.3 million.

We still have a lot of money to raise, but our apprehensions have turned to optimism.

We have now started planning for a future that includes our permanent ownership of Vendovi. A task force that includes trustees, members and advisors has been convened to articulate our long-term goals for the island, to determine what resources we will need to meet these goals, and to undertake a new capital campaign that incorporates this long-term vision into its message.

We intend to take an innovative approach to creating a model nature preserve that will protect the natural integrity of Vendovi while accommodating access for scientific, educational and low-impact recreational purposes.

We look forward to reporting on our progress over the coming months and returning to you with a compelling vision for Vendovi.

If we succeed, Vendovi will maintain its mystery and natural diversity while serving as a showcase for teaching current and future visitors about life and conservation on our outer islands. We hope you will stay tuned….

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