Photographers move to foxes on BLM lands

Crowds of photographers that had been surrounding the foxes on the bluffs of American Camp have moved east to property of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management which is managed by the San Juan Island National Monument. The monument was designated by former President Obama in 2013 and falls under the umbrella of the BLM. The land has little signage to educate visitors about approaching wildlife and has not had representatives from the BLM present. That may soon change after public testimony given to the Monument Action Committee during their May 18 meeting.

“I am concerned about people going off the trails, harming the wildflowers, marble butterflies as well as the foxes. The fox is down to one kit now, and that is due to distress,” Robert Memic said. There is a den in a prominent location on the BLM which has drawn the attention of both individual photographers and photographer tour groups. Crowds of photographers circled around the den, according to Memic, for hours on end.

The meeting was Brie Chartier, the new monument manager’s, first official meeting with the committee, and she is planning on visiting the Cattle Point property this week along with another new staff person.

“I have been working with the National Park Service as well,” Chartier said.

Two other presentations were given to the committee prior to the public comment period. Russel Barsh, director of the non-profit Kwiaht, has been studying the impacts of tourism on Indian Island, and Kendra Smith, Director of the San Juan County Environmental Stewardship Department gave an update about the Sustainable Tourism Management Plan. Both proved relevant to San Juan Islands fox situation.

Visitors to Indian Island, located off of Orcas, have disturbed birds during nesting season and have harmed other native wildlife, Barsh said. He implored the action committee and BLM to discourage spontaneous trips to the island and work on educating the public. Barsh stated simply, stop promoting and start managing.

Smith showed a picture of people swarming around a fox during her talk. “This is exactly what we don’t want to have happen,” she said. There is a page on the park’s website, Smith added that contains guidelines for park visitors. A significant portion of the photographers appear to be coming from off-island as part of some sort of group, Smith said, encouraging locals who see ads for such groups to email a link to the guidelines to the companies.

Public commenters each stated how heartbroken they were to hear about the degradation of wildlife on public lands.

Sally Reed told Chartier to utilize individuals in the community who clearly care.

“We can help, we can be out at Agate Beach or Cattle point,” she said.

Due to high tensions regarding the foxes, some suggested bringing in law enforcement, or even having an emergency closing of the area. The Washington Department of Wildlife has also apparently been called about the matter, according to a commenter who went by the name Dante, a resident of San Juan Island, and will be visiting this week as well. He also suggested that members of the park’s Fox Brigade could be called upon to monitor the situation.

Due to the poor state of signage, locals have taken to installing their own home printed signs, Dante added. The public encouraged BLM to install new signs now and not wait until October or later.

Tom Reeve suggested an emergency closure, however, Kurt Pindel, BLM District manager, replied that signage and working with the community will be the answer.

“I want you to know that I hear your concerns… I have been talking to Alexis [Fredy, Superintendent of the National Historic Park Service]. This is going to be [solved by] outreach, education and presence,” Chartier said, welcoming and encouraging locals to volunteer.

The next MAC meeting is currently scheduled for October 6. To learn more about the San Juan National Monument and the action committee visit