A Tool for Protection
SAN JUAN PRESERVATION TRUST DEVELOPS PUBLIC ACCESS PLAN
For 35 years, our first priority has been to protect the natural values on the 50+ nature preserves that we own throughout the islands, and this commitment will never change. But as a significant owner of island land, we have an opportunity – and perhaps a responsibility – to use some of the preserves in our network to demonstrate the fundamental role that land conservation plays in our lives. As important as our island wildlife, landscapes and habitat are to us, it is our people that serve as the heart and inspiration for our work. In fact the future health of our nature preserves may rely on making them accessible for the education and enjoyment of our human constituents.
This observation is shared by our land trust peers throughout the country, who are learning that inviting people onto protected lands can provide long-lasting benefits. At the Preservation Trust we know that our focus will one day shift from acquisition to stewardship, and our promise to protect land in perpetuity can be kept only when our community understands the value of what we have. We think that public access will be an important tool to educate and engage, thereby inspiring current and future generations of people to defend our work.
Towards that end, we have made public access to some of our preserves a strategic priority. In concept, this commitment seems simple. Practically, the issues that arise from providing public access are surprisingly complex. To help us sort through these issues, we have engaged an experienced outdoor education and design firm, Sea Reach Ltd., to create an access plan for our selected preserves. This plan will ensure consistency of appearance and message, but will adapt to accommodate special considerations for each site (for example, amenities and educational messages for a remote island preserve will be very different from a working farm, a hiking trail or a popular beach).
We often talk about future generations that will benefit from our work. The only way to ensure that the places we’re protecting today will remain protected in the future is to build a dedicated and lasting constituency, and we believe this effort to provide access to some of our most inspiring preserves is an important step. We have been inspired by the vision being generated by this process, and we look forward to sharing it with you and our island communities.
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Of the more than 15,000 acres protected by the San Juan Preservation Trust, approximately 3,000 acres are owned outright. The remaining 12,000 acres are owned by private families or government agencies but protected by conservation easements held by the Preservation Trust. These conservation easements protect specific natural values on the property in perpetuity, but allow the landowner to enjoy, sell or bequeath the property to their heirs. In most cases, lands protected by conservation easements are not accessible to the public, but the Preservation Trust often provides its members with special access to these conserved properties.