2019 was a busy and exciting year for your Conservation Land Bank, including many inaugural events! Here’s a look back at some of the highlights.
The Salish Seeds Project Native Plant Sale Expands
This year garden enthusiasts on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island had the opportunity to purchase locally grown wildflowers native to San Juan County! The Land Bank hosted sales on each island in September featuring native plants produced by The Salish Seeds Project, where 1,500 plants went to new homes.
Many of the plants at the sales are hard to obtain commercially and are uncommon even in the wild. Most are showy, great for native pollinators, and drought-tolerant. Sale offerings included harsh Indian paintbrush, camas bulbs, Canada goldenrod, and Henderson’s checkermallow.
Osprey Platform Goes Up at Weeks Wetland Preserve
Last June, raptor biologist Jim Kaiser reviewed multiple Fisherman Bay locations on Lopez Island for the suitability of an osprey nesting platform, and concluded that Weeks Wetland Preserve was an ideal location.
Over the summer months, and into fall, Land Bank staff and volunteers completed designs and prep work to install the platform. Now we eagerly await spring to see how our new neighbors enjoy their nesting space.
San Juan Islands Specialty License Plate Becomes a Reality
Three years ago in a meeting of conservation land managers, Marcia deChadenedes (San Juan Islands National Monument Manager) threw out an idea to create a permanent funding stream to support conservation and stewardship projects and programs in the San Juans, including the youth conservation corps on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands – a San Juan Islands license plate. 3,500 signatures later, and after authorization from the Washington state legislature, the San Juan Islands specialty license plate featuring local artist Nancy Spaulding’s image,“Evening Passage”, is now available for purchase through the Washington State Department of Licensing. Anyone else think this would have made a good Schoolhouse Rock episode?
Trail Options Multiply at Mount Grant Preserve
Over the course of the year, multiple trails have been added to the Preserve, giving outdoor enthusiasts a variety of options — and vistas — to enjoy on the way to the summit. The east side trails offer a pedestrian only, a multi-use, and a ¾ mile trail specifically designed for mountain bike descent. On the west side, off the main road, a trail meanders down to what we’ve been calling Newt Pond. An enormous THANK YOU to our amazing team of Trail Blazer volunteers whose dedication and determination played a key role in completing this trail system in 2019.
Lopez Hill Preserve Commemoration Celebration
Before the acquisition, 400-acre Lopez Hill was a school trust property open to logging or resale by the Department of Natural Resources. In 2009, the legislature purchased a 50-year lease on the Hill and in 2018, the Land Bank provided the funds to buy the remainder. In the end your Conservation Land Bank completed the acquisition with the County only spending a little over 15% of the total appraised value, even more reason to celebrate!
Lopez Channel Preserve
In June of 2017, the Land Bank gained nine and a half acres, including second growth forest, coastal bluffs and about 470 feet of shoreline along the west side of Lopez. This year the Land Bank staff, along with input from the Lopez community, drafted the Preserve’s Stewardship and Management Plan. Stay tuned in 2020 for the Preserve’s official opening!
Orca Recovery Day Planting at Turtleback Mountain Preserve
Governor Jay Inslee declared October 19, 2019 as Orca Recovery Day and your Conservation Land Bank was one of the 109 organizations that participated in the historic event! Volunteers joined Land Bank staff in our first Orca Recovery Day event to help plant 400 Garry oak acorns and 1,300 native wildflowers within the Garry oak restoration area off the Morning Ridge Trail on Turtleback Mountain.
Beaverton Marsh Valley Secured
The public-private partnership of the Land Bank and the San Juan Preservation Trust successfully pooled their creative and financial resources to conserve a 325-acre parcel in the heart of Beaverton Valley on San Juan Island. The newly acquired property lies between, and connects, two existing Beaverton Marsh preserves, one owned by the Land Bank, the other by the Preservation Trust. Now 500 acres of high-functioning wetland and upland forest between Roche Harbor Road and Beaverton Valley Road will be preserved, including the highly visible ridge and forestland, and the largest freshwater wetlands complex in the county.
The newly acquired property had long been a high priority for protection for both the Preservation Trust and the Land Bank. The opportunity to purchase it arose when a San Juan Island family saw the large “For Sale” sign by Beaverton Valley Road and stepped up with a lead gift of $750,000. The two organizations quickly engaged in the project. The Land Bank committed $1 million towards the $2.6 million acquisition cost, and the Preservation Trust committed to purchase a conservation easement from the Land Bank for $850,000, creating a dual layer of permanent protection.
Aerial panoramic of Beaverton Marsh. Photo credit Joe Belcovson