Over the years, islanders have feasted on clams, hunted for deer, picked berries, dug bulbs, and fished waters teeming with salmon. They plowed fertile valleys seeding their fields with peas, oats, wheat, and barley. On gentle slopes, they planted large orchards with pears, plums, apples, and cherries. Their sheep and cattle once roamed at will.
Today island living is bounded by the seasons and centered around an easy-going sociability. It also signifies what it is to live in a climate of mutual respect and tolerance however hard-earned. These are the qualities that bind us to one another and the land.
Islanders agree it is important to ensure that the distinct character of life in these islands will endure. We define ourselves by our beloved landscape, and we want these lands to remain for our children and grandchildren. We know that quiet places are healthy for both body and soul.
As one way to do this, they created the San Juan County Land Bank in 1990. The program is guided by the San Juan County Ordinance (Chapter 16.54, Citizens Conservation Land Bank).
The Land Bank Mandate
To preserve in perpetuity areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, historic, scenic or low-intensity recreational value and to protect existing and future sources of potable water.
The primary source of funding is a one percent real estate excise tax, or REET, paid by purchasers of property in San Juan County. Other sources of revenue include the conservation futures tax, private donations, grants, and interest income.
Public opinion helps guide spending decisions. The Land Bank Commission’s seven citizen volunteers represent all the islands’ citizens. The staff – director, land steward, preserve stewards, operations manager, outreach coordinator, and program assistants– work together to allocate Land Bank dollars to meet its conservation priorities. Commission meetings are held monthly and the public is always welcome.
Caring for the Land
Careful stewardship of Land Bank properties is a high priority. Our stewardship program puts the values and vision of the Land Bank’s mandate into action with the goal of understanding and protecting the significant conservation values of each property entrusted to our care.
The Land Bank is committed to protecting its conservation purchases forever with the establishment of a special stewardship endowment fund. The Land Bank Commission’s goal is that all expenses needed to care for Land Bank properties in perpetuity will be paid out of interest from this account.