Big news if you love the San Juan Islands: Word is that President Obama on Monday will order the creation of a San Juan Islands National Monument, which will give permanent protection to some of the prettiest and most treasured spots in the archipelago — essentially all island sites under the auspices of the federal Bureau of Land Management.
On ferry-served islands, that includes soul-soothing scenery such as San Juan Island’s Cattle Point lighthouse, a lonely sentry at the windswept edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Lopez Island landmark of Chadwick Hill, where I’ve counted dozens of turkey vultures soaring on updrafts above gorgeous little Watmough Bight, a favorite saltwater hidey-hole for boaters with a hermit gene.
Speaking of hermit boaters, other favorite island locales that will be protected forever include lonely little Patos Island lighthouse, a wandering spot for boaters lucky enough to nab the buoy in Active Cove (so named, perhaps, because tidal action will give you an active night as your moored boat spins about).
Also on the list is Turn Point light station, which attracts legions of boaters who moor at Reid and Prevost harbors and walk the meandering “cow-path” road across the island, past Stuart Island’s famed one-room schoolhouse (which currently has two students) and the Boundary Pass Traders serve-yourself (and pay by the honor system) T-shirt stand. Turn Point is where my family had our best-ever orca sighting, as a superpod came around the point, swimming right into the kelp within 10 feet of shore;
it took 45 minutes for them all to pass by, to the thrill of a motley crew of salty hikers who waited and watched in awe until the last whale breached out of the water for a finale. BLM, with the aid of volunteers, has been doing a good job of restoring the old lightkeeper’s house at the site and has created a small museum there.
Click here to see a map of all BLM property in the islands, much of which includes small, rocky islets that are popular with seabirds and sea lions.
Monument status also assigns these lands to BLM’s National Conservation Lands, which directs BLM to work closely with the local community on a management plan and prevents potential development or sale.
Barbara Marrett at the San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau was quick to crow about the achievement, calling it a “cause for local celebration,” crediting island citizens who worked hard and long to make it happen, along with the state’s congressional delegation, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who visited the islands several times during the process of consideration.