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San Juan Islanders: "Don't Take Antiquities Act for Granted"

PHOTO: Residents of the San Juans say having portions of the islands designated as a national monument assures them local input on management of that land. Photo credit: Linda Hudson.
April 7. 2014
PHOTO: Residents of the San Juans say having portions of the islands designated as a national monument assures them local input on management of that land. Photo credit: Linda Hudson.

SEATTLE - It has been one year since the San Juan Islands National Monument was created by President Obama, and island residents are concerned that other communities will not get the same chance, if a bill that just passed in the House makes its way through Congress. The legislation would make it much tougher for presidents to use the Antiquities Act. Obama used the law to protect parts of the San Juans, after years of inaction in Congress.

Tom Reeve, who lives on Lopez Island, thinks many places have similar local support for land protection and could put the Antiquities Act to good use.

"For us, the president was able to say, 'You know, politics shouldn't stand in the way of the community getting what it needs and what it wants.' And the president was able to act," Reeves said.

He says the goal in the San Juans wasn't to increase tourism but to permanently protect close to 1,000 acres: small sections of the islands that are home to historic lighthouses and wildlife. The bill would make any protections of less than 5,000 acres temporary, and require that they be revisited by Congress. It's now in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Reeve explains the original goal on the islands was for a National Conservation Area, but Congress kept putting it off. Ultimately, he says, the locals wanted to ensure that the community would have some say in what happens to the land.

"What we're seeing now is the Bureau of Land Management approaching us and involving us in the management-planning process," he said. "So, we absolutely feel like we achieved the two parts of our goal - the permanent protection, and the local voice in the management of the land."

He says in the last year, the BLM has hired a monument manager, has had several public meetings, and residents are nominating people to serve on a resource committee. He's convinced that none of this would be happening had the fate of the San Juan Islands National Monument been left for Congress to decide.


Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA