Mountain Lake Conservation Easement

Orcas Island
Year protected: 1994
Land protected: 280 acres
Public benefits:  Forestland, wetlands

Arthur Boyd led a full life, graduating from Harvard Business School, working with Sears and the Foreign Service, and living deep into his 90’s. But Arthur grew up in Montana, and in his heart he would always be the son of a rancher.

He bought 560 acres bordering Moran State Park on Orcas Island in the early 1960’s. “I was interested in growing trees,” he said, “and having crops, like any other son of a farmer would be.” Known as “Mountain Lake Tree Farm,” the property is now blanketed with a healthy variety of maturing trees, with a few fire-scarred old growth Douglas firs mixed in. Deer, raccoon, and numerous songbirds, raptors, and other species make their homes in the forest.

By the mid-1980’s, Arthur and his wife, Helen, were becoming alarmed by the dramatic increase in assessment of their property’s value. Another family might have cashed in, but the Boyds found a way to keep the land. They deeded it to their children, Michael and Frances, and as a family decided to grant a conservation easement on 280 acres of their land to the San Juan Preservation Trust.

Before committing to the easement, Michael, Frances and their friends kicked around other possibilities. Some asked, “Couldn’t there be a village here of environmentally sensitive people? Do you really want to give that away?” The answer was, “That will be somewhere else. This untouched property is so rare.”

The easement allows the woodland areas of the property to be managed as a working forest, subject to forestry practices that have minimal impact on the soils, surrounding trees, vegetation and wildlife habitat. Water resources on the property, including lakes and ponds, also receive special protection.

Today, Michael – who inherited his father’s love of growing things – continues to watch over the extensive acreage.  “Nature is humbling,” Michael reflects. “I don’t have a strong sense that this is ‘my land’ and I can do what I want with it; instead I have a lot of gratitude to find myself stewarding it.”