Rocky open fields on the upper slopes of Orcas Island have been gradually disappearing. Often prized as building sites, these fields now host new structures which change scenic views as well as impact wildlife habitat. In 1998, Orcas Island resident Amanda Azous and her neighbors were concerned about this kind of impact on the mountain bald knows as “The Hogback,” adjacent to Moran State Park. They approached the Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank, and a unique combination of land purchases and conservation easements were developed to conserve a total of 50 acres on Hogback.
More than 60 private donors contributed to the Preservation Trust’s Hogback project, which included an outright purchase of the most prominent 30 acres of open bald native plant habitat, as well as high-quality forest. This 30-acre area is now known as “Hogback Mountain Preserve” and is open for hiking, with access from Moran State Park. It will be held as a forever wild parcel, with no structures allowed. The Hogback Preserve sits adjacent to a conservation easement held by the San Juan County Land Bank on 20 acres of Victor Schoonmaker’s property.
The open meadows of the Hogback Preserve feature native Idaho fescue and a rich and diverse mix of native wildflower species. Views from the bluffs are stunning and are a perfect spot to picnic and delight in the surroundings. If you do visit, be certain to whisper a note of thanks to the visionary islanders who helped preserve this magic place.