Following the adoption of the 1968 National Environmental Policy Act, states began to adopt similar policies as their citizens became more aware of conservation issues. Many of these new policies were controversial, and in San Juan County, as elsewhere, many were strongly opposed.
At that time, San Juan County had no effective zoning, much less a master plan. Suggestions that the County exercise more control over development were shouted down. There was a deep distrust of environmental organizations.
In the mid 1970’s, Linda Henry, then County Commissioner for Orcas Island, talked with me about establishing a land trust modeled after those in New England. To avoid creating a short-lived political casualty, our organization needed to avoid controversy and be governed by locals. The first few years were quiet, and then one day the Trust received a gift of land. It was in business.
Moving incrementally and consensually, the Trust has since demonstrated its mission “by doing.” It has become a respected and effective partner. First untrusted, the San Juan Preservation Trust is now the steward of land that many islanders value most.