RSS

Is Donald Trump About to Sell Off the San Juan Islands?

Lovers of Our San Juan Islands Beware.

As a  very grateful immigrant to Washington State, I am privileged as a boater  to be able to visit these islands where only a few large estates and no suburban developments have destroyed my pleasure.

We are so lucky to have the San Juans as a place where the poorest citizen can come and camp and I can bring my 34ft Aquila to anchor in skull cove.

Now the Donald Trump administration is threatening to make the  27 national monuments , including the San Juans, into land available for private development. A  Trump executive order, signed on April 26, would open the Islands  to development if Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke decides that destination of the place as national monument  was made “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

From the Seattle Times: “I don’t think anything is safe under this president,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, whose Washington state district includes the 4-year-old monument, made up of 75 small islands, rocks and pinnacles and a home to orca whales, harbor seals and bald eagles. “My concern is that the president wants to get rid of national monuments altogether.”  Bryan Watt,

spokesman for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the language in Trump’s order includes “a huge loophole for Zinke to include smaller monuments” in the review.  Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said that Trump’s order could open up thousands of acres of public lands and coastal shores, accusing the president of trying to “exploit lands held in public trust.”  “Over 100 years of conservation is proposed to be undone in just a few days by President Trump,” Cantwell said in a speech on the Senate floor two weeks ago.

California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, the panel’s chairman, told his colleagues that the monuments often result in broad prohibitions on roads, hunting and fishing and other recreational uses, denying access to too many Americans. “Preserving these lands for future generations does not mean closing them to the current generation,” he said. And Labrador, another member of the subcommittee, praised Trump’s move but said the White House plan to review the monuments and then recommend any changes did not go far enough.  Labrador introduced a bill that would require approval from Congress and any state with a proposed monument before a president would designate a monument.  “Individuals who live near our public lands and state and local elected officials know how to best protect our cherished lands,” Labrador said, “more than any bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., or any think tank or any other group like that, or even the president of the United States.”  Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are promoting a similar bill in the Senate, called the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act. Like Labrador’s bill, it would require states and Congress to sign off on national monuments. Risch said the legislation “would allow for greater transparency.”

Larsen said he planned to visit the San Juan Islands this week to meet with locals who battled for years to create the monument.

“They’re worried,” he said. “We don’t want a target on the back of the San Juan national monument.”

When Obama created the monument in 2013, his proclamation called the San Juan Islands “an unmatched landscape of contrasts, where forests (seem) to spring from gray rock and distant snow-capped peaks provide the backdrop for sandy beaches.”

It’s a place long cherished by those who live there.  “Right now it’s wildflower season, and the wildflowers out at Iceberg Point are gorgeous,” said Tom Reeve of Lopez Island, chairman of the San Juan Islands monument advisory committee. “And when the whales are by, there’s no place better to watch them.”

Reeve said he and other backers of the monument will fight the Trump administration if necessary, but he’s hoping that doesn’t happen.

“We’re definitely not excluded in the order,” Reeve said. “But it would take quite a stretch to say that there wasn’t strong public input in this designation. So I don’t think we’re at risk, though frankly if there are changes made to other monuments, that makes us nervous. Because it sets a precedent that the proclamations aren’t as permanent as we want them to be.”


Your Comment