Islanders for the
San Juan Islands National Monument
Resource Management Plan Approved
Next Monument Advisory Committee Meeting is scheduled for May 4, 2023. Public comments are accepted at MAC meetings (written submitted prior to the meeting, oral submitted on the zoom call). For more information contact the Monument Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org or the BLM Spokane District Public Affairs, email@example.com
Public comments can be submitted at any time to the Monument Manager or the Spokane District Office.
Thank you for your support in establishing the San Juan Islands National Monument. The Monument needs your ongoing support and voice. Email or write to BLM about your concerns, about public input into decisions about the Monument, about being informed what is happening on Monument lands.
On January 31, 2023 the Bureau of Land Managment released its approved Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the San Juan Islands National Monument. This RMP will guide the "implementation level" decisions and on-the-ground actions on the monument for years to come.
The RMP document is much more approachable than the various Environmental Impact Statement Drafts that preceded it and we encourage interested people to review it.
The Federal Register notice includes the following description of changes made in this last round that many community members were seeking [emphasis is ours].
"On January 15, 2020, the Office of the Governor of Washington identified some concerns and potential inconsistencies between the proposed RMP and State and local plans, policies, and programs. The BLM made all requested changes that were within the scope of the RMP."
"Specifically, the approved RMP prohibits dispersed camping and removed small BLM-administered rocks from inclusion in a recreation management area. Access to these rocks will be limited to authorized educational, spiritual, or scientific purposes. The approved RMP also includes clarified language related to the proposed RMP’s prohibition of recreational target shooting to ensure that lawful hunting practices will continue to be allowed on these public lands."
"The approved RMP includes allowable and prohibited use decisions that the BLM believes will protect the cultural and ecological values for which the SJINM was designated, while also maintaining the recreational activities that inspired the public to advocate for the designation of the SJINM."
Thank you to the public, the Governor and his staff, the San Juan County Council, the tribes, Senator Cantwell, Representatives Larsen and DelBene, local representatives, the Monument Advisory Committee (MAC), the Wilderness Society, Advocates for the West, and the Conservation Lands Foundation for their work to ensure Monument lands are preserved and protected.
The Approved RMP provides the following key Objectives:
Protect cultural values, restore the Monument’s native plant communities; facilitate recreational uses that are compatible with the protection of the Monument’s objects and values; require Special Recreation Permits for organized, commercial, or competitive use on Monument lands; allow full tool set of methods to achieve vegetative management objectives including use of pesticides and herbicides; allow for the possibility to restore and reconstruct certain historic structures (at lighthouses); enhance habitat for federally listed or candidate wildlife species; disallow target shooting; allow designated camping at only Blind/Posey/Patos islands; limit motorized vehicle and bikes to designated roads within the Monument; limit hiking to designated trails and non-vegetative shoreline and only in the 14 Recreation Management Areas; limit equestrian use to certain trails at Chadwick Hill and designated roads; require pets to be leashed but note certain areas are closed to pets; restrict the general public’s natural material collection to small amounts consumed on site; no fireworks, geocaches, metal detectors or launching/landing drones on Monument land.
A more detailed list of topics in the RMP, including page references, is provided here.
What comes next: Implementation
With the approved Resource Management Plan, the focus for the Monument pivots to implementation. This will include cultural resource management plans, education and interpretation plans, recreation management plans for the 14 Recreation Management Areas, site specific plant community management plans, site management plans for special status species, historic property management plans, traditional tribal activities plan, vegetative monitoring plan, science plan. RMP pages 16-17. This may also include the Travel and Transportation Management Plan.
A big question is how BLM determines the priority for developing these plans. Will the public and Tribes have input into setting these priorities?
There are many considerations in determining which plans should be implemented first: Amount of visitation to a site, potential damage to cultural or historic value, potential damage to critical habitat, potential damage from climate change. If you have an opinion on what plans BLM should address first, email the Monument Manager and/or ask BLM to hold public meetings to allow the public to give input.
BLM is required to obtain public input in certain instances, and we encourage BLM to solicit public input in other situations to promote good relations with the public. There are instances when BLM does not need to consult with the public before taking actions.
If you want to be notified by BLM of its plans for the San Juan Islands National Monument, you need to request BLM to notify you of its land use plans as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). You can make a general request or ask to be notified in particular instances, e.g. specific location such as Point Colville or specific topic such as vegetative management. If you requested notification previously this may still be valid or not. There has been a change in Monument Manager and Public Affairs personnel, and in no fault to the old or new employees in those positions there may not be an accurate list around now. Resubmit.
The BLM website states: Most of the actions the BLM takes to implement its land-use plans are reviewed under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), either through the production of detailed Environmental Impact Statements, less-complex Environmental Assessments, or other related documents. https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/what-informs-our-plans/nepa
The categories for BLM’s environmental assessment are: Listed in order of most public input to no public input
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This was completed as part of the RMP process. Do not expect BLM to prepare another EIS for implementation decisions.
Environmental Assessments (EAs). Per the BLM website listed earlier, an EA is a document that identifies environmental effects of a proposed action and determines their significance. An EA describes the purpose and need for a proposed action, describe the affected environment, discuss alternatives to a proposed action, and analyzes environmental impacts and ways to mitigate them.
It is BLM who determines whether the proposed action will have a significant impact and whether to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA). For an environmental assessment BLM would conduct public scoping and allow for public comment on the proposed action. Example given by BLM at the February 2023 MAC meeting of a potential EA: Fuels Reduction Plan for Monument lands, the process could take 6 months to 2 years, BLM would conduct public scoping, develop alternatives, present a draft plan, have a 60-day public comment period, analyze the comments, and then BLM issues its Fuels Reduction Plan and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) that allows the Plan to be implemented.
Determinations of NEPA Adequacy (DNAs). BLM determines that the action or plan has already been reviewed in the EIS or in another environmental assessment. BLM can take action without public input. A possible example of this would be vegetative management. BLM has stated in the RMP that it is committed to removal of noxious weeds, for example the invasive non-native blackberry. The RMP (and the underlying EIS) allows BLM to use its set of vegetative management tools. BLM could allow use of herbicides on blackberries without public input on that decision.
Categorical Exclusions (CEs). Per the BLM website - Categorical Exclusions are a category of actions the BLM has identified that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. At the February 2023 MAC meeting, BLM gave these as examples of Categorical Exclusions (also referred to CATEX) where BLM can take action without any public input or requiring that this has been covered in an earlier EIS or environmental assessment as: Maintenance on established trails or issuance of Special Recreational Permits.
Contact information for BLM Monument Manager, Brie Chartier, firstname.lastname@example.org, 650 Mullis Street Suite 100, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.
Contact information for the BLM Spokane District Office, BLM_OR_SP_Mail@blm.gov, 1103 N. Fancher Road, Spokane Valley, WA 99212
More information regarding BLM’s environmental assessment can be found here.
Funding and Staff:
Sufficient resources will be critical to protection and preservation of Monument Lands. At the present time the National Monument has one staff person, the Monument Manager. A seasonal recreation planner may be added for summer 2023. We hope this is not a repeat of 2022 when the seasonal recreation planner didn't show. BLM Spokane District HR was not able to process other applications for various reasons. This resulted in no seasonal recreation planner in 2022. So far in 2023 the initial hire has decided to take another job. We are unsure if there will be a seasonal recreation planner for 2023. BLM is also recruiting for a full time recreational planner. Applications have closed, but the Spokane District Office states the position will not be in place until late 2023 or after.
The Monument has one staff person to implement the RMP; to enforce the RMP (65 sites spread out over many islands, rocks and reefs, BLM has no boat and relies upon State Parks boat); to protect the public’s safety; to preserve cultural sites; to preserve endangered plants, wildlife and habitat; to conduct public input/outreach; to liaison with partner organizations including developing Memorandums of Understanding (MOU's) with the groups; and to prevent harm to the objects and values for which the Monument was established. More staff is needed now.
Insufficient funding for the San Juan Islands National Monument is another concern. BLM needs to allocate sufficient funding to support the Monument. Having the RMP without funding to implement and enforce the RMP significantly diminishes BLM’s commitment to the Proclamation. If the Monument had adequate staff or could hire a contractor to assist with this, staff could apply for funding and assist non-profits working on Monument lands to secure funds currently available under the America the Beautiful Initiative; the Great America Outdoors Act; the Inflation Reduction Act (tribal, coastal community and climate funding); The Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act; and other government and non-profit funding sources. It gets technical but BLM has funding for National Monuments (National Conservation Lands System, NCLS). However some BLM offices say they will fund Monuments only from the NCLS funds, not from their overall budget. The intent is for the NCLS funds to be in addition to the District office funding for planning, cultural, ecological, recreational, and historic areas.
The Road to A Plan
It has been a long road. The San Juan Islands National Monument was created on March 25, 2013. The Monument Advisory Committee (MAC), appointed to advise the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the Resource Management Plan first met in October of 2014. And the Resource Management Planning process officially kicked off in March of 2015.
Between 2015 and today, the BLM sought public input on the issues to be addressed, created draft plans for analysis, received public comment on those drafts, and published an over 900-page Proposed Resource Management Plan [very large PDF file] in 2019.
Included in the materials that BLM considered as they modified the Proposed RMP to become the approved RMP are hundreds of protests submitted by the public (all of which were rejected by BLM), issues summarized by Islanders for the San Juan Islands National Monument, and the following specific documents (all submitted to BLM by the MAC at their first post-Proposed-RMP meeting after not being allowed to convene during crucial parts of the drafting process):
The letter submitted to the BLM by Governor Inslee as part of his Consistency Review of the Proposed RMP
The protest letter submitted by the San Juan County Council in response to the proposed RMP
A Summary of Issues in the Proposed RMP prepared by Islanders for the San Juan Islands National Monument for the Protest Period last winter
A letter from the San Juan County Council expressing concern about gaps in the latest MAC appointments
A detailed protest letter submitted jointly by The Wilderness Society and the Conservation Lands Foundation
Islanders for the San Juan Islands National Monument is a group of local citizens who care deeply for the lands of the San Juan Islands National Monument and work to ensure their care.
Our Monument protects precious sites in the San Juan Islands. These sites, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), include recreation areas beloved by locals and visitors, cultural sites used by local tribes for thousands of years, historic lighthouses, disappearing habitat, and much more.
More information about the Monument can be found on BLM's official website for the monument.
Islanders for the San Juan Islands National Monument advocated for the designation of the Monument, which was achieved in 2013. Since then, Islanders, has worked to inform the public of key engagement and advocacy opportunities, such as public meetings, and compile information to enable the public to engage productively with the BLM and others on issues surrounding the Monument.
Our History page contains information about the advocacy efforts that led to creation of the Monument as well as the history of the first 5 years of the Monument's existence. Our Resources page includes more recent information distributed during key input phases in the development of the Monument's Resource Managagement Plan.
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And you can follow us on Facebook at: @SanJuanIslandsNationalMonument
Or on Twitter at: @SJIslandsNM