Throughout the 1980’s, land development and tourism were on the rise, and the county’s population was rapidly growing. Facing the loss of places they loved, a diverse group of locals sought a way to save treasured lands and maintain quality of life.
Their vision led to the creation of the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank. In 1990, San Juan County voters approved funding for the Land Bank through a one-time 1% real estate excise tax paid by purchasers of property at closing. (San Juan County Ordinance: Chapter 2.120, Citizens Conservation Land Bank). In this way the community could protect those special places that brought them here. For the last 30 years the Conservation Land Bank, guided by local input, has been conserving exceptional places in the islands.
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.