Illegal Clear-Cutting on Fidalgo Preserve

IMG_3585 (800x600) Fidalgo clear-cut

The owner of an Anacortes bed & breakfast establishment has agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement for illegally clear-cutting a waterfront nature preserve on Fidalgo Island. The nature preserve, which is owned by the San Juan Preservation Trust, is situated on a steep slope between the bed & breakfast and the shoreline. It is presumed that the owner of the bed & breakfast ordered the removal of all of the trees from a one-quarter acre area extending from the top of the bank down to the beach in order to enhance the views from his establishment. This action has damaged important shoreline wildlife habit and destabilized the steep bank by eliminating native vegetation and undermining its natural water drainage patterns.

The clear-cut property is part of the Preservation Trust’s 1.25-mile long “John H. Geary Shoreline Preserve,” a 38-acre collection of 22 contiguous parcels along the west side of Fidalgo Island that was permanently conserved in 1992 by a coalition of neighbors concerned about a proposed development along this steep hillside. The preserve follows Fidalgo’s western shoreline beginning north of Sunset Lane, around Edith Point, and then south toward Biz Point.

“No one likes to seek legal remedy, but this community worked very hard to protect this shoreline,” said Keith Gerrard, president of the San Juan Preservation Trust’s board of trustees. “We have a responsibility to defend all of our nature preserves in perpetuity, and we won’t shy away from that commitment.”

The Preservation Trust, which has agreed to drop a pending lawsuit, intends to use funds from the settlement to restore lost vegetation, re-stabilize the steep bank, educate upland neighbors about the nature preserve, and implement new strategies to avoid future violations.

Posted in News | Comments Off

Hats off to our 2014 Volunteer of the Year!


Meet Harvey Himelfarb

We are extremely grateful to Harvey Himelfarb for his volunteer service to the Preservation Trust over the last 10 years. With humility and his articulate manner, Harvey served on the SJPT Board of Trustees from 2003-2011, contributing his intelligent insights and leadership skills to the growth of the organization. Among many accomplishments during his board tenure, Harvey organized our successful Photography Internship program and provided invaluable leadership during the Preservation Trust’s very first land trust accreditation process.

Two years after stepping down from the board, Harvey returned as a non-trustee volunteer in 2013 to serve as chairman of an ad-hoc Governance Committee. Convened to improve our approach to selecting, educating and engaging board members, this committee – under Harvey’s leadership – advanced a number of recommendations that will help shape the future of the Preservation Trust for years to come.

Originally from the Bronx, Harvey has been a West Coast transplant for decades. An accomplished artist, Harvey taught photography and printmaking for more than 20 years at UC Davis before accepting a position there of Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Programs.

In 1991, Harvey, his wife, Alice Swan, and their son purchased property on Orcas Island and built a small house. They moved to Orcas full time in 1998. After observing dramatic changes due to growth in Arizona and California during the past 30 years, Harvey is convinced that the San Juan Islands remain a special place where those who care can still save its pristine qualities.

“It has been an honor to help the Trust in protecting our beautiful islands. I need no recognition as I believe so much in the mission and the wonderful staff of the Trust,” said Harvey.

Harvey, you are much too humble. You have made a positive and lasting contribution to future of the Preservation Trust!

Posted in News | Comments Off


Turtlehead Preserve Now Accessible Through Turtleback Mountain Preserve

On Saturday, August 24, about two dozen supporters gathered to help celebrate the connection of Turtleback Mountain Preserve to Turtlehead Preserve with the completion of a new trail. The project was made possible through the San Juan Preservation Trust’s acquisition of an adjoining 111-acre property (the “neck” in the iconic turtle-shaped ridgeline) which had separated the two preserves.

Following the ribbon-cutting, guests made the inaugural hike to Turtlehead Preserve and its unsurpassed views of San Juan and Canadian islands.

Visit the Preservation Trust’s Facebook page for a photo album of the event.


Hikers may access the new trail from the North Trailhead of Turtleback Mountain Preserve (off Crow Valley Road, next to the historic schoolhouse). A hike of 1.5 miles takes visitors to the Waldron Overlook, where the new trail begins. Another 1.2 miles of hiking with moderate elevation gain terminates at Turtlehead Preserve, with its stunning wildflowers and native grasslands. Hikers are requested to stay on the trail to minimize impact to the area. The new trail is strictly for pedestrian use; no bikes or horses are allowed.

The Campaign to Complete Turtleback is $55,000 away from reaching its goal of $1.15 million, which includes the $1.0 million purchase price and $115,000 for transaction and trail building costs. Support has come from the San Juan Preservation Trust’s acquisition funds, lead gifts from five Orcas Island families, and 202 additional donors. A “Cap Turtleback” initiative was created to inspire broad-based community participation in the campaign, and every donor of $50 or more will receive a Turtleback baseball cap.

Posted in News | Comments Off


Photo: Ferdi Businger

Summer greetings from Vendovi Island!

With pleasant temperatures and cloudless, sunny skies, the past few weeks have been perfect for visiting Vendovi Island. We calculate that since May, over 900 people have ventured out to the island for recreational purposes. Visitors have come out solo, in pairs and in groups* to explore the island, picnic on Sunset Beach and hike out to the overlook at Paintbrush Point.

We’ve heard that visitors are also enjoying their chats with our resident caretakers, Heather and Shawn, who have the great fortune this summer to experience the wonders of Vendovi on a daily basis. Typical entries in Heather and Shawn’s daily journal include:

… We spotted a humpback near the entrance to the harbor on our way back from Bellingham. Yesterday we spotted a handful of small dead fish on the beach at Sunrise which we suspect might have been spawning smelt.

… Shawn went out in the dinghy to try to catch a pod of orcas traveling between Viti Rocks and Carter Point on Lummi.

…This morning my dad got this great picture of a garter snake.

Photo: Peter Bansmer

…We have an amazing display of blooming ocean spray throughout the island and the rein orchids are also blooming.

And another…

…I forgot to mention that we met a wonderful woman this week – Barbara Reid  came to see the island her late friend, Rachel Adams, worked to help preserve … Barbara entertained us with amazing stories of her adventures … she mentioned that she is spearheading a committee to install 3 memorials for Peter Puget on Blake Island, Cutts Island and Olympia. She has a blog for the project. What a wonderful and inspiring woman!

Other recent visitors to Vendovi have been doing more than chatting. Western Washington University students conducted a study of intertidal species, and students from the Northwest Indian College have conducted botanical research. We were blessed (once again) to welcome a crew of strong, hard-working youth from the Washington Conservation Corps to the island to relocate a trail-end away from a sensitive grassland area, and a second crew of wonderful all-purpose SJPT volunteers to do the thankless job of removing invasive plants, primarily holly and sweetbriar rose.

As to the care and maintenance of the non-native structures, our 2013 volunteer of the year Peter Willing continues to do a yeoman’s job of repairing, refurbishing and replacing the infrastructure around the house and outbuildings for safer, more efficient operation. (Until we know for a fact that we are able to retain ownership of Vendovi, none of the existing infrastructure will be removed.)

And speaking of retaining ownership of Vendovi, here’s a brief fundraising update: we’ve now raised $920,000 towards the $1.0 million challenge grant, but we must raise the remaining $80,000 by October 1. If we succeed with that goal, we will have:

  • met the $1 million challenge
  • decreased the balance on the bridge loan from its original $3.4 million to $1.3 million
  • enabled us to retain ownership of the island and keep it open for public access.

Please help us spread the word that the Campaign to Save Vendovi Island is not yet over. If you’ve not already done so, please consider contributing today!

Thank you!


* All are welcome but we require groups of 10 or more to check in with us in advance at 360/468-3202.

Posted in News | Comments Off