Island Dispatch | Spring 2021

CARING FOR THE LONG HAUL

“Land acquisition is just the first step. Stewardship is harder because it never ends.”
—Malcolm Goodfellow

A Garry oak on Turtleback Mountain | Staff Archive

When the San Juan Preservation Trust teamed up with the San Juan County Land Bank and more than 2,000 donors to purchase 1,578 acres on Turtleback Mountain in 2006, the mountain’s ecosystem was suffering.

Thickets of Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberries had invaded the grasslands. Douglas fir trees were shading out many of the ancient, sun-loving Garry oaks. And armies of hungry deer munched native trees, grasses, and wildflowers to nubbins, giving invasive species free rein to overtake the mountain.

Fortunately, the Washington Department of Ecology had just the solution: In the 1980s, it formed the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) with the goal of conserving and enhancing the state’s natural resources while providing service opportunities to young adults and military veterans. The WCC program is partially supported by AmeriCorps funding, but conservation organizations like ours still pay about $5,000 per week to employ a six-person crew. After more than 10 seasons of hiring WCC crews to comb Turtleback Mountain Preserve with weed wrenches and other tools of the trade, invasive species have not entirely disappeared, but we’ve made enormous progress.

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A green leaf hanging from a tree.
A Garry oak leaf on Turtleback Mountain | Jane Fox

Thanks to You, We’re Turning 42!

Garry oak trees have always held a place of special prominence in the Preservation Trust’s conservation work. We present oak seedlings to some of our most far-sighted donors. Our volunteers plant scores of them each year. But why? What’s the big deal about Garry oaks? 

Tune in to our virtual annual meeting on May 20 to find out. We’ll take you on a brief video journey to explore the past, present, and future of the islands’ rare and wonderful oak woodlands and grasslands. And, as we do at every annual meeting, we’ll review highlights of the past year, acknowledge special contributors, hand out a few awards, and announce results of this year’s Board of Trustee election. 

Speaking of the election, we encourage all members to vote by using the enclosed mail-in ballot. (Members are defined as those on our mailing list who are active volunteers or have made a donation of any size since January 1, 2017.) Questions? Call 360-378-2461. 

We look forward to seeing you on May 20, 2021! 

The San Juan Preservation Trust’s 42nd Annual Meeting (held via Zoom webinar)
May 20, 2021 | 5:00pm–6:15pm

A Vigorous and Vigilant Presence 

Volunteers bring to the Preservation Trust what spring pollinators bring to island wildflowers: Their fresh and buzzing energy enlivens our conservation work. We’re grateful to all of our volunteers, and honor one of the standouts, Troy Buckley, as our 2020-21 Volunteer of the Year. 

Troy began rolling up his sleeves at SJPT work parties in 2014, shortly after he and his wife, Kristin, purchased a home on Orcas Island. (Full disclosure: Kristin recently joined our staff as Director of Philanthropy, but Troy distinguished himself as a volunteer well before that, while the couple were still part-time islanders based in Seattle.) 

Throughout his career as a marine fisheries biologist, Troy studied species interactions and food webs. “In my work ranging from the Pacific Islands to the Alaskan Arctic, ” he says, “I saw the need to protect and rehabilitate impacted habitats and animal populations by preserving healthy ecosystems and treasured resources”—words he continues to live by as a volunteer Preserve Steward. 

Troy is a vigilant presence at Turtleback Mountain and Turtlehead preserves. After windstorms, he clears downed trees from the trails. He picks up trash, pulls weeds, and logs sharp-eyed observations. He joins every work party with vigor and never hesitates to get his hands dirty.  

“I get a deep sense of satisfaction,” he says, “knowing that I am contributing to the health of our islands and the enjoyment of what they offer to current and future generations, humans and nonhumans alike.” 

Visit sjpt.org/volunteermonth for more volunteer appreciation. 

A man in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt stands on a hillside below a tree.
Troy Buckley| Staff Archive