The San Juan Marine Resources Committee (MRC) and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) invites the public to three open houses to discuss the proposed San Juan Aquatic Reserve on state aquatic lands that surround the San Juan Islands.
“I’m very pleased by the response of the scientific and environmental communities in developing proposals for new aquatic reserves,” said Doug Sutherland, Commissioner of Public Lands. “We knew that once we put together a solid Aquatic Reserve Program we could count on these communities to identify ecologically important additions to be considered for the state’s reserve system. And I appreciate the work that San Juan Marine Resources Committee has put into this proposal and look forward to public input.”
The meetings are scheduled as follows:
Friday, April 4 6 – 7:30 p.m. San Juan Island Grange
152 First St. N., Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Saturday, April 5 11 a.m. -12:30 p.m. Lopez Community Center
204 Village Rd, Lopez Island
Saturday, April 5 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. Eastsound Fire Station
45 Lavender Lane, Orcas Island
Marine Resources Committee and state Department of Natural Resources staff will present an overview of the state Aquatic Reserve Program and proposal for the Sans Juan site. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions, provide input, and discuss the proposed site and the statewide program.
Proposed San Juan Aquatic Reserve Site
The 163,387-acre area includes state-owned tidelands and ‘bedlands’— those under the deep waters,— which also would include other protected areas such as the San Juan Island National Historical Park, the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, several county and state parks, and the MRC’s voluntary no-take bottom fish recovery zones. The San Juan Islands contain biologically diverse populations of fish, marine mammals, invertebrates, and aquatic plant life. The region offers refuge and food for species of concern such as orcas (Southern resident), salmon, and seabirds, and supports the tourism, research, and education industries — all of which rely upon a healthy marine environment.
The purpose for establishing this Aquatic Reserve is to protect the natural environment and unique culture of the San Juan Islands, and to provide scientific and educational public benefits. Aquatic reserve establishment will help to preserve, restore, and enhance the habitats that support the species upon which the residents of and visitors to the San Juan Islands depend. Reserve status would allow for public access, increased research, habitat restoration, protection and conservation, and environmental education, while encouraging marine-based livelihoods and cultural traditions.
Other proponents of the San Juan Aquatic Reserve include the San Juan County Council, San Juan County Land Bank, San Juan County Parks Department, San Juan Lead Entity for Salmon Recovery, NOAA, National Park Service, People for Puget Sound, Washington State Parks, University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs, Friends of the San Juans, The Nature Conservancy, The Whale Museum, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
More information on the Aquatic Reserve Program is located on DNR’s website: HYPERLINK “http://www.dnr.wa.gov/ResearchScience/AquaticMarineSciences” http://www.dnr.wa.gov/ResearchScience/AquaticMarineSciences, and select Aquatic Reserves Program.
Steward of state-owned aquatic lands
As trustee and steward of the 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands, DNR manages many of Washington’s beaches, the bedlands under Puget Sound, and the coast, natural lakes, and navigable rivers. DNR manages these lands not only to facilitate navigation, commerce, and public access, but also to ensure protection for aquatic habitat. State-owned aquatic lands include:
About 68,100 acres of state-owned tidelands, or 106 square miles
90,000 acres of harbor areas
All submerged marine lands below extreme low tide—that’s 3,430 square miles of bedlands under navigable waters, as well as freshwater shorelands and bedlands
Doug Sutherland, who administers the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, is Washington’s twelfth Commissioner of Public Lands since statehood in 1889.
Web site: www.sjcmrc.org