Second Congressional District Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Everett), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and the White House announced March 21 that more than 1,000 acres on dozens of the San Juan islands will be designated as National Conservation Lands by President Barack Obama on Monday, March 25.
Larsen, who, with Cantwell introduced legislation to protect the acreage managed by the Bureau of Land Management in 2011, and again in 2013, along with and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Woodinville), lauded the efforts of San Juan County residents to convince the President to protect the land on San Juan, Lopez, Orcas and dozens of smaller islands - including lighthouses on Patos Island, Stuart Island and San Juan Island.
Sally and Tom Reeve of Lopez Island and a dozen other islanders formed and led a citizen action group to promote the project, and several of them accompanied San Juan County Councilman Jamie Stevens to Washington, DC, to advance the cause.
Cantwell and Larsen had previously introduced legislation in Congress to designate about a thousand acres of land scattered through the San Juans as a National Conservation Area, but the bill stalled in Congress, leading them to ask President Obama to declare the lands as a National Monument by executive order under the Antiquities Act. Both the designation as a national monument and as a NCA drew the support of former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
The designation as National Conservation Lands under the Antiquities Act of 1906 means that the lands join 103 other parcels of public land as National Monuments. Although there are millions of acres of National Conservation Lands, National Monument status is "much more significant," according to Meghan Kissell of the Conservation Lands Foundation.
Other conserved land designated by former presidents as National Monuments include the iconic Devil's Tower in Wyoming, the first National Monument designated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt and known to a generation of Americans as the extraterrestrial landing site in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Other monuments include the Mt. St. Helens National Monument, designated by President Reagan in 1982, the Little Bighorn Battlefield, designated by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, and the Giant Sequoia National Monument, designated in 2000 by President Clinton.