Island Dispatch | December 2014

Photo by Jane Fox


“I wish I could afford to just give it to you, but I can’t.” she said. “But I’ve talked with my neighbors, and they want to help.” This was yet another call from the Eureka neighborhood, a close-knit group of folks that live around our Eureka Preserve along the beautiful northeast coast of San Juan Island. Back in 2000, two Eureka families donated 21 acres in land and conservation easements to the Preservation Trust. Their neighbors took note, and one year later, 12 households living around this newly-protected forest undertook their own fundraising campaign to acquire an adjoining 10-acre undeveloped property that was threatened by development.

Fast forward to 2014. As we worked with this most recent caller, we learned that she was willing to sell her spectacular property for $440,000, a price below its market value (what we call a “bargain sale”). We also learned that she had already convinced her neighbors to donate most of the funds we would need. The rest was easy, and in July the Preservation Trust moved ahead to purchase her 10-acre waterfront parcel. With old growth trees and 350 feet of shoreline, this addition to our once-landlocked Eureka Preserve provides wildlife with a permanent and undisturbed path to the sea.

We permanently protected eight new properties in the past year representing over 240 acres and 1.6 miles of shoreline. These include 95 acres of working farmland (on Lopez and San Juan), 60 acres of shoreline salmon and forage fish habitat (on Stuart Island), and 75 acres in three forested parcels that connect and expand previously-protected Preservation Trust lands (on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan). The Eureka Preserve represents one of three neighborhood conservation efforts that the Preservation Trust completed in 2014.

As many of our most important island landscapes have been subdivided into multiple ownerships, the only way to protect them is to take a collective approach. But as anyone who has participated in a neighborhood homeowner’s association meeting can attest, even the most well-meaning neighbors can find it difficult to achieve a shared goal. To address this challenge, we recently received a grant to develop a formal process for engaging several landowners at once to protect their adjoining properties. We have learned, through experience, that the Preservation Trust is in a unique position to provide guidance, leadership and fundraising support for property owners who wish to work together to realize a shared conservation vision for their neighborhood.

As our members celebrate the 35th anniversary of the San Juan Preservation Trust, they can take credit for permanently protecting more than 15,700 acres, 21 miles of trails and 40 miles of shoreline on 20 islands. The Preservation Trust ranks in the top 2% in number of properties protected, among more than 1,700 land trusts operating in the United States.



The San Juan Preservation Trust has joined forces with the San Juan County Land Bank on several acquisition projects throughout the San Juan Islands. This past year, however, the two organizations embarked on a different type of joint venture. The Salish Seeds Project, a native plant propagation nursery, is now sited at the Preservation Trust’s Red Mill Farm Preserve and the Land Bank’s Driggs Park, both located on San Juan Island.

The Preservation Trust and Land Bank share similar visions for restoration on their preserves, and a priority for each are the vanishing Garry oak savannah and prairie habitats. Most of the species targeted for this restoration work are impossible to find commercially. Therefore, it makes good economic sense to share facilities and resources. Native wildflowers and grasses will be grown at the nursery sites, among them the federally threatened golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta). The Salish Seeds Project is funded in part by a grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Community involvement is central to the Salish Seeds Project. Volunteers are invited to help at either nursery location, or with a little training, to join our team of skilled wild seed collectors.


Carla Wright is an intrepid traveler whose adventures have taken her to the North and South Poles and many points in between. In spring 2014, she traveled from England to China on a container ship, the only woman aboard, to retrace the trade routes of bygone eras. (Last month she kept a Friday Harbor audience in stitches with stories of her cargo ship adventure.) Yet, upon arriving home on San Juan Island, she always has the urge to “kiss the ground”. Carla is passionate about these islands. She admits that, when she was looking at island land to purchase, she “fell in love at first sight” with her San Juan property. She describes her steep six acres as best suited for a mountain goat. It hosts extraordinary rock formations, huge madronas, firs and an ancient Garry oak tree. Her view includes the Haro Strait shipping channel – inspiration for her recent adventure. Carla believes that each feature of the land is living, connected. “The Preservation Trust’s work to protect such places is vital,” claims Carla.