San Juan Preservation Trust

Island Dispatch | July 2017

It Takes a Neighborhood

Small-scale conservation can add up
to something big

View from Entrance Mountain | Staff Archive

Super-sized conservation opportunities like Turtleback Mountain Preserve— 1,578 acres in one fell swoop!—come around once a decade, if that. Most rural land in the San Juan Islands is divided into parcels that average less than eight acres each.

Collecting many small, isolated “postage stamps” does not always add up to a large public benefit, in terms of protecting significant wildlife and plant habitat, wide-open views, farmland, and public access to trails. So, how can we get around the “postage stamp” conundrum?

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One approach the Preservation Trust has successfully pursued is known as “neighborhood conservation easements.” The idea is to inspire the owners of adjoining properties in a high-priority conservation area to place permanent protections on their land. Collectively, these individual easements can add up to something big, protecting large swaths of a rural valley, a vital watershed, a stretch of scenic road, or an entire mountainside.

A group of several neighboring landowners did just that on Entrance Mountain, the dual peak on Orcas Island that stands sentinel at the entrance of East Sound, between Rosario and Olga. The 1,200-foot mountain, with its forested slopes and rocky crags, is home to a large variety of native plants and wildlife. In addition to its intrinsic conservation values, Entrance Mountain is a highly visible landmark on the ferry corridor and serves as a kind of “ambassador” landscape for hundreds of thousands of people each year as they transit the islands.

A glance at the county parcel map shows the complex puzzle pattern of ownership that evolved after subdivision of the area began in the 1950s. The Preservation Trust’s efforts to reassemble some of these pieces began in the late ‘80s, when a critical mass of four owners donated conservation easements protecting parcels on Entrance Mountain’s west slope. With the success of this first phase, more neighbors joined the project, culminating with protection of the largest parcel on the mountain—122 acres encompassing the mountain’s entire south face. The County Land Bank acquired additional key parcels surrounding the summit, completing a 340-acre block of protected lands stretching from the waterfront near Buck Bay to Moran State Park.

This is all thanks to a group of neighboring landowners who understood the original vision and exercised the generosity, foresight, and patience required to see it through.

Another example of neighborhood conservation took shape on Lopez Island when, in 2003, three families approached the Preservation Trust with a request for help. The families— the Avents, Thomases, and DeVores—had long recognized that an expansive forest-lined meadow they held in common forms an important agricultural resource, a wildlife migration corridor, and a popular sweeping view of Swifts Bay for people traveling along Center Road (Lopez’s main thoroughfare). SJPT helped the families craft a conservation easement that permanently protects the 70-acre meadow.

The Preservation Trust continues to work with neighbors in critical habitat areas to knit together tracts of protected land, especially along shorelines. In the face of ever-increasing development pressure, these partnerships are proving to be one of the most valuable legacies that private landowners in our islands can leave.

Sunset over Crescent Beach |


You may recall that, back in 2016, we asked you, our members, what you thought about how we communicate with you. We heard that you liked our publications very much (thank you!), and some of you expressed concern that perhaps six annual issues of the Island Dispatch was too costly. We listened and decided to heed your wise counsel. To save paper and mailing expenses, we are trimming back distribution of the Dispatch from six to four times a year, but we are adding an email newsletter in all eight intervening months. The net result will be more news about SJPT’s work to preserve the natural beauty of the San Juan Islands.

Our email newsletter, Postcard from the Islands, made its debut last month. If you did not receive the June issue, you can see it on our website here. Regrettably, the email version may have landed in your spam folder, a technical hiccup that we are hoping to remedy for the August edition.

It’s also possible that we don’t have a current email address for you. Now’s your chance to fi x that! To sign up for our e-newsletter, please fill out and (snail-)mail us the enclosed postcard—or save a stamp and do it online here. It’s the best way to keep up with what’s happening at the Preservation Trust, including upcoming events, conservation updates, and links to great photos and videos of preserved island landscapes.

We look forward to staying in touch with you. If you have comments, questions, or story ideas, drop us a line! Email

Konrad Liegel | Staff Archive


At the Preservation Trust, we are incredibly lucky in that we get to work with our heroes—from visionary landowners and generous philanthropists to our dedicated volunteers, partners, and consultants. The success of every project depends on an intricate network of heroic and extraordinary individuals, each contributing his or her own unique superpower to the effort.

Among these many remarkable people, no one has contributed more to the Preservation Trust’s conservation success over the past 15 years than has Konrad Liegel, our legal counsel. Konrad has stood at the center of every transaction we’ve completed in that time, providing us with advice and a steady hand as we’ve navigated literally hundreds of conservation projects from negotiation to completion.

Despite his Ivy League law degree and long tenure at one of Seattle’s most prestigious law firms, Konrad is not the bellicose, fee-hungry lawyer of the old stereotype. Soft-spoken, insightful, and ethical beyond reproach, Konrad now practices law under his own shingle, advising families, individuals, and nonprofit organizations on conservation, land use, environmental, real estate and charitable matters.

We have many people to thank for our success, including most of you. But behind the scenes, during times of stress and uncertainty, Konrad Liegel is our superhero. We are all grateful for his friendship, and we simply couldn’t imagine doing this work without him.

(And yes, our attorney’s last name is really pronounced “legal”!)

The Gann Society is a group of individuals who have notified us that they have provided for the San Juan Preservation Trust in their estate plans. Their planned giving will help protect the San Juan Islands in perpetuity.