San Juan County seeks land protection
Community members of San Juan County are pushing to designate the San Juan Islands a National Conservation Area to give them another layer of protection against unwanted development. As part of his Washington state visit, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar attended a public meeting Wednesday in Anacortes and expressed support for the issue.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Community members of San Juan County are pushing to designate portions of the San Juan Islands as a National Conservation Area to give them a more secure layer of protection against unwanted land-use changes.
The 1,000 acres in question are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. A National Conservation Area designation would allow community members to have more say on the land's management and add a sense of permanence, because an act of Congress is necessary to change it.
As part of a Washington state visit, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar attended a public meeting Wednesday in Anacortes and expressed support for the issue.
"The vibrancy and enthusiasm of the local community is what inspires me to work with them toward what they want to accomplish," he said.
Salazar plans to form a committee, headed by an official from the bureau, to achieve the designation.
San Juan County residents already are working with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen to eventually bring the issue to Congress.
Former San Juan County Commissioner Tom Cowan said the designation would enhance protection of the area. He stressed that the bureau has so far managed the land well, but the National Conservation designation would allow residents to have more of a say in how it is handled.
It also prevents the bureau from possibly selling the land to private developers, and instructs it to create a more concrete management plan, he said.
"We don't want to change," he said. "We want things to go on just like they have been for a number of years, but with some more security to it."
Brittney Wong: 206-464-3195 or email@example.com
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