Senate holds hearing on protection for San Juans' public lands

Mar 22, 2012

A bill to establish a National Conservation Area that would give permanent protection 1,000 acres of unique landscapes in the San Juan Islands is wending its way through Congress. A key committee took up the legislation this afternoon. Senator Maria Cantwell told a panel, the bill would stave off the threat of future development.

“The fact remains, for such a pristine and unbelievable area of our country, there is no long-term, comprehensive plan in place,"  Sen Cantwell said. "And these are very, very special places, so that is why we have introduced this legislation. ”

The land currently belongs to the federal Bureau of Land Management. It includes local treasures ranging from pine forests to lighthouses that attract more than 70, 000 tourists a year. It also covers remote rocks and reefs that are home to many rare and endangered species.

Cantwell says there is widespread local support for preservation of the land, which will be crucial if the designation goes forward.

Last month, Cantwell and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, hosted a town hall meeting in Anacortes on the Conservation Area. More than 100 people attended.Citizen involvement would be mandated by law as part of the proposal