In March 2012, The Nature Conservancy of Washington State transferred title and stewardship responsibilities for two cherished preserves on Waldron Island to the San Juan Preservation Trust. Purchased separately in the early 1970s with the support of donations from the Waldron community, the 269-acre Cowlitz Bay Preserve and 208-acre Bitte Baer Preserve were among the very first private lands to be permanently conserved in San Juan County and, indeed, in the state of Washington.
The prime mover in establishing these preserves was long-time Waldron resident Beatrice “Bitte” Baer Myers. Her passion for protecting the undeveloped character of her beloved Waldron Island propelled and sustained The Nature Conservancy’s campaigns to acquire these iconic properties—first with Cowlitz Bay in the early ’70s, and again with the preserve that was named after her in the late 1980s and early ’90s, which included some of her own donated land.
“The San Juan Preservation Trust and the people of Waldron Island are the ideal partners to care for these iconic lands,” said Karen Anderson, the Conservancy’s Washington director. “We know that these preserves will be well-stewarded into the future.”
The Bitte Baer Preserve, which is adjacent to another 219-acre preserve already owned by the Preservation Trust, includes the sandstone face of Point Disney (named after Solomon Disney, a sailmaker with the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-42, lead by Charles Wilkes) and hosts one of the largest intact Garry oak ecosystems in the San Juan archipelago. The Cowlitz Bay Preserve, which was acquired in 1971 to thwart a proposed subdivision, hosts extensive high-quality wetland and almost 4,000 feet of beachfront, including tidelands with forage fish spawning habitat and eelgrass beds.
In addition to transferring the two preserves, The Nature Conservancy also conveyed a stewardship endowment to the Preservation Trust that was created by donors at the time these properties were originally preserved. The resident long-term caretaker, Tony Scruton, was retained by the Preservation Trust.