Priorities and Project Selection

Conservation Priorities

To help identify organizational priorities, the San Juan Preservation Trust first created its Conservation Plan in 2003. As part of this process, the Preservation Trust worked directly with the San Juan Land Bank, among other conservation groups, to share data and create guidelines for synchronizing conservation activities. The Preservation Trust continues to update and refine this Conservation Plan as goals evolve and new information becomes available.

Planning Goals

  • Update information used to set priorities for conservation actions
  • Establish a process to evaluate conservation opportunities
  • Build organizational strength by articulating conservation targets
  • Develop new collaborations

Planning Steps

  • Collect current data and identify gaps in the data available
  • Analyze the data to spatially locate where important resources occur and where they overlap with other resources
  • Define what resources are conservation priorities
  • Determine sensitivity of resources
  • Evaluate what factors represent threats to resource values

Rather than a static plan document or map, the planning product is the compilation of data to be used with a geographic information system (GIS) as a tool and a process for setting organizational priorities. The tool is designed to build on the best availabe information to identify landscapes critical for conservation. It also creates a new base of information in a form that can be readily updated to keep priorities current and flag areas where opportunities may arise to incorporate new conservation pursuits over time.

An Evolutionary Conservation Plan

All of the following approaches will be used to accomplish conservation goals:

  • Targeted Projects are those that the Preservation Trust or Land Bank will actively pursue together or independently to protect key properties.
  • Responsive Projects are those offered for donation by property owners.
  • Future Strategic Developments are long-term planning initiatives and are included as a category to flag action areas for follow-up and to allow for the incorporation of new information and revisions to resource vulnerabilities.

Conservation values are identified to allow consideration of different threats and challenges that apply to natural and visual resource conservation:

Natural Resource Features – Environmental Quality

  • Wetlands
  • Riparian habitat
  • Nearshore habitat
  • Undeveloped shorelines
  • Undeveloped forest habitat
  • Rare plant or animal habitats (regionally or locally significant)
  • Critical aquifer recharge areas

Rural Character – Visual Resource Qualities

  • Pastoral landscapes
  • Public view corridors
  • Prominent geographic features
  • Views across water to mountains, islands
  • Landscape edges, including ridgelines

Focus areas are  identified and mapped for each conservation value based on:

  1. the presence of a critical resource;
  2. the condition of the resource (quality, intact, or degree diminished);
  3. threats to a resource; and
  4. management potential.

Responsive actions will be prioritized using these criteria as well.

Future actions will be needed to:

  • Maintain a current data base, update data analyses, and refine prioritization of target and responsive actions;
  • Adapt to changing knowledge of ecological systems and management approaches for them (which may include periodic evaluation of easement or management plan terms);
  • Incorporate new approaches in new settings, such as conserving significant open space resources within activity centers; and
  • Use the data available to evaluate accomplishment of target actions.

In the course of evaluating at the information available and in the many forms availed by GIS it became apparent that a fresh approach to conservation planning can be found in using the data as a tool and a process rather than as static contributors to a single plan document as a final plan product. This revelation changed the expectations of the Planning Group about what this section of the report would present. Rather than a plan in itself, this section lets the data (through the maps) tell the story and guide organizational actions.

To illustrate this, maps were created to display a compilation of resource information for the islands in San Juan County. The maps are in pairs for each of nine segments of the county:  The first in each pair shows priority resource lands and the second indicates the “threat” value represented by the county’s residential density designations.

The compiled information includes:

  •     Priority wetlands, shorelines and nearshore habitat;
  •     High value agricultural and forest lands;
  •     Important fish and wildlife habitat; and
  •     Important visual resources.

In addition, a land management layer is added to these to indicate areas already protected through public ownership, ownership by the Preservation Trust, or conservation easements held by the Preservation Trust or the Land Bank.

The extent to which priority resource categories overlap and combine value upon value, the extent to which they are already protected, and the geographic extent of priority resource values, are readily apparent. When viewed opposite the density map, or threats, the comparative priorities are clearly identifiable.

Example: Lopez Island

Priority Lands of Lopez Island shows the resource compilation for most of Lopez. Pockets of agricultural/pastoral lands that are highly visible from public roads have been protected, but large areas of the south central valley remain in areas of relatively high threat from further land division and development, as can be seen in Zoned Density of Lopez Island.

A substantial amount of high-value shoreline has been protected. Few significant parcels of undeveloped shoreline remain on Lopez and those in areas vulnerable to substantial change as a result of development are easily identifiable on the first map, “Priority Lands of Lopez Island”.

To perform similar comparisons by viewing maps of other island regions, click on the links below:

Priority Lands of Western Orcas and Waldron Islands
Zoned Density of Western Orcas and Waldron Islands
Priority Lands of Eastern San Juan and Western Shaw Islands
Zoned Density of Eastern San Juan and Western Shaw Islands