President Obama plans to designate a national monument in the San Juan Islands, handing a long-sought victory to island residents and members of Washington’s congressional delegation.
Obama will sign a proclamation Monday creating the monument, a White House official said Thursday. The action will provide permanent protections for nearly 1,000 acres of undeveloped federal lands on the islands, including Lopez Island’s Iceberg Point and Chadwick Hill and the Cattle Point Lighthouse on San Juan Island.
The news was hailed by members of Washington’s congressional delegation who had worked for years to preserve the lands.
“We’re very pleased because it’s such an incredible unique spot in the United States… it will be permanently protected for generations to come,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said in an interview Thursday.
The lands that islanders had sought to preserve are already federally owned and overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. While there were no apparent plans for the government to sell or develop the properties, the monument designation offers virtual certainty they will remain protected in perpetuity.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, credited “years of persistence” by environmental and business leaders who built a coalition to campaign for the monument.
“San Juan Islanders have been shouting from the rooftops for years: protect these lands. Well the president heard our message loud and clear,” Larsen said in a written statement.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray thanked Obama and outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for the action, saying in a statement through her office the San Juan Islands will now “join our nation’s most iconic parks, wildlife refuges, and landmarks as a permanent, federally protected national monument.”
The president’s authority to create national monuments was given by the Antiquities Act of 1906, first utilized by President Theodore Roosevelt to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. There are now more than 100 national monuments across the country, including the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty and Colorado’s Canyon of the Ancients.
The San Juan Islands will become the third national monument in Washington, joining Mt. St. Helens and Hanford Reach.
Along with the San Juans, Obama on Monday also will designate new national monuments in Delaware, Maryland and New Mexico, according to the White House.