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Environment | Land

President Obama Creates National Monument In Washington's San Juan Islands

More than 70,000 people visit Washington's San Juan Islands every year.

More than 70,000 people visit Washington's San Juan Islands every year.

Ashley Ahearn

Editor’s note: Story updated to reflect the signing of the proclamations.

President Obama has signed proclamations designating national monument status to five new sites. One of them will be Washington’s San Juan Islands National Monument.

The San Juan Islands National Monument will encompass 1,000 acres on Washington’s Lopez, San Juan and Orcas Islands - as well as some of the smaller surrounding islands.

The monument will include important Native American cultural sites as well as two historic lighthouses.

Also to be protected are popular recreation destinations in the islands like Iceberg Point and Watmough Bay on Lopez Island, Patos Island and Cattle Point on San Juan Island.

The San Juan Islands National Monument will be administered by the Department of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management.

“It is the result of determined work by Congressman Rick Larsen, Senator Maria Cantwell, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, State Senator Kevin Ranker and the San Juan County Council responding to the goals of the community that cares so deeply about these lands,” said Tom Reeve, a Lopez Island resident and a member of the Islanders For The San Juan Islands National Monument.

Conservation groups and Washington politicians have been pushing for permanent protection of this land for the past several years.

“This is a significant amount of land that we currently look at as amazing natural and recreational resources that are economic drivers not just in our community but in Washington state,” says Kevin Ranker, a state senator from Orcas Island.

More than 70,000 people visit the San Juans every year.

Declaring the land a national monument will prevent it from being mined, logged or developed but will not impose any sort of fee on visitors.

The other new monuments will be the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, First State National Monument in Delaware, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland and the largest site at Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. There are currently 103 national monuments.

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