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San Juan Islanders Say Community Involvement Is Key To Protecting National Monument

Two recently designated national monuments in Washington state are among those vulnerableunder an executive order from President Donald Trump. Locals in the San Juan Islands say they would be shocked to see the federal protection undone.  

Senator Maria Cantwell has been leading the charge among Democrats in the other Washington who are fighting against the latest executive order. In a letter to the president, they expressed their deep concerns.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Cantwell, who is the ranking member on the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, addressed the issue in advance of the order's issuance.  

“Trying to illegally roll back these national monuments, some of the most treasured lands in our country, is something we should not do,” she argued.

There are a total of 42 monuments affected.

Jaime Stevens is a San Juan County Council member and one of the many people in his community who have worked hard for the better part of a decade to get the monument designation in place.  

“It seems rather punitive, to de-designate something that’s less than 1,000 acres … to undo something President Obama did,” he said. “It’s not based in any sort of reasonable analysis of the situation.”     

The federal designation protects a unique and diverse patchwork of public lands in the San Juans that include pristine cliff sides, historic lighthouses and tribal fishing areas. Stevens says it also maximizes federal, state and local dollars, by capitalizing on community involvement.

“I mean, our volunteers that work and help out on are 80 percent of the total volunteer hours in all of the Spokane district, which is Washington state.”

That’s why many people there are more hopeful than not, that Senator Cantwell’s efforts to fight off the executive order will pay off in the San Juan Islands.

The order states that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has 45 days to review the affected monuments, then must issue a final report within 120 days. San Juan Islands is on the list because it was designated in 2013.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to