A 2,250-acre conservation easement, representing almost half of the 4,428 acre Blakely Island, was donated to the Preservation Trust in 1993 by Thomas Crowley Sr. Unequalled in the San Juan Islands in its combination of size, beauty, and natural conditions, this remains the largest conservation easement ever recorded by the Preservation Trust. The easement assures that Blakely will remain a predominantly natural island in perpetuity.
The majority of the protected acreage is in the upland inner core of the island, but also includes approximately three miles of waterfront along the Washington State ferry corridor. Over 90% of the property is forested with dense stands of Douglas fir mixed with Western hemlock and Western red cedar. Rarer tree species include Western yew, Garry oak, and Sitka spruce. The protected property fronts the northern boundary of Horseshoe Lake, an 84-acre, 90-foot deep lake that provides habitat for many birds and other wildlife. Rich marsh areas abound along the edge of the lake, and there are many small marshes in all stages of succession throughout the property. Bird life is plentiful, with red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, trumpeter swans, great blue herons, kingfishers, and pileated woodpeckers noted. Exposed solid rock hillsides and outcroppings, including those along the western slopes of the 1,042-foot Blakely Peak, provide for diverse and abundant wildflowers in the spring and summer.
Under the terms of the agreement with the Preservation Trust, a maximum of 19 homes may be placed on the 2,200 acres. The property continues to be managed as a productive working forest, but the conservation easement assures that the essential natural character of the land will be preserved.
“Tom Crowley has, in essence, defined the central core of Blakely Island as a wildlife preserve in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations of humans, animals, and plants,” said Les Gunther, president of the Board of the Preservation Trust at the time of the gift, “We owe a debt of deep gratitude to Mr. Crowley for his generosity and vision.”
The Crowley family has continued to build upon their conservation legacy. Tom Crowley Jr. and his wife, Christine, have gone on to acquire and preserve additional large parcels on Blakely with the Preservation Trust, including the Bald Bluff conservation easement and the Crowley Preserve.