Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined local, tribal, and federal leaders today to dedicate San Juan Islands National Monument, a beautiful archipelago of more than 450 islands, rocks, and pinnacles in the northern reaches of Washington's Puget Sound.
"The designation of San Juan Islands National Monument by President Obama culminates years of locally driven conservation efforts to ensure this treasured landscape will be conserved for future generations to enjoy," Secretary Salazar said. "Through tourism and outdoor recreation, the San Juan Islands will continue to be a huge economic engine for the local communities and the State of Washington."
As one of five new national monuments designated by President Obama last week under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the San Juan Islands include nearly 1,000 acres of lands currently administered by the department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), primarily within San Juan County. The President's proclamation affects only federal lands administered by the BLM and does not apply to state-owned or private lands.
The area attracts approximately 80,000 visitors a year, drawn from around the world by a landscape where forests seem to spring from gray rocks and distant, snow-capped peaks provide the backdrop for sandy beaches. Recreational opportunities in the San Juan Islands include wildlife watching, fishing, hunting, hiking, boating and camping.
"We are honored that the President has entrusted the BLM with managing San Juan Islands National Monument as part of our multiple-use mission," said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. "These lands are some of America's most breathtaking and they'll now be permanently protected as National Conservation Lands."
San Juan Islands National Monument is the BLM's 19th national monument, joining 887 other federally recognized areas that make up the National Landscape Conservation System, also known as the National Conservation Lands. The San Juans constitute the first national monument in the State of Washington managed by the BLM.
Recreation on lands managed by BLM in Washington contributed $42.9 million in economic activity in 2011. Nationally, recreation on BLM lands supports approximately 59,000 jobs and resulted in about $7 billion in economic activity. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs in the nation every year.
The local community and congressional delegation have been leading efforts for conservation of the San Juan Islands for years. Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Rick Larsen, with the support of Senator Patty Murray, then-Representative Jay Inslee, and now Representative Suzan DelBene, have introduced legislation in the 112th and 113th Congresses to establish the San Juan Islands as a National Conservation Area.
"At long last, these 1,000 acres of cherished lands in the San Juan Islands will be on the map as a National Monument," said Cantwell. "For generations to come, residents and tourists alike will be able to enjoy these marvels of the San Juans -- where the land meets the sea. This much- deserved designation comes thanks to the hard work of many, from Watmough Bay to the White House. I'd especially like to thank Secretary Salazar, who took the time and energy to get to know these special lands and work for their preservation. This truly is a day for the whole community to celebrate."
"The San Juan Islands are among the most beautiful places in the country and are an economic engine for Northwest Washington that attract thousands of tourists each year," said Larsen. "That's why I have worked doggedly alongside Islanders for the last four years to push for this permanent protection. President Obama's designation of the national monument in the San Juan Islands is the culmination of years of persistence by environmental and business leaders who built consensus and remained resolute in their mission."
"With President Obama's action to create the San Juan Islands National Monument, years of hard work from local community, elected, environmental and business leaders have paid off. The lands within this new national monument are beautiful open spaces and contain a number of cherished local landmarks," said DelBene. "Thanks to the community's efforts, these scenic and recreational treasures will be protected for generations to come."
The islands are part of the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people who first used the area near the end of the last glacial period, about 12,000 years ago. Europeans explored the area in the late 18th century, opening the way for additional settlement.
The monument offers rich educational and scientific prospects. Scientists working on the islands have made numerous discoveries, including unique fossil finds and other evidence of long-vanished species. Since 1966, the National Park Service has managed San Juan Island National Historical Park, comprised of 2,100 acres of coastal shoreline, forests and prairie. The park tells the story of the boundary dispute between Great Britain and the United States and commemorates its peaceful resolution.
These lands contain a diversity of habitats, with forests, woodlands, and wetlands intermixed with rocky balds, bluffs, inter-tidal areas, and sandy beaches. The proclamation also protects grasslands that are home to historically significant great camas, brittle cactus and the threatened golden paintbrush.
"San Juan Islands National Monument will always be a proud reminder of what communities can do when they come together to protect the places they treasure," said Salazar. "This community- driven designation shows how local citizens can leave a deep and positive imprint on America's public lands."