A Community Website by Lopez Island
Started by Madrona Murphy
Sep 4, 2020
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Visitor Impacts on Iceberg Point
Sep 4, 2020
We have been conducting annual surveys of vegetation change and visitor impacts on the Iceberg Point landscape since 2005, when we made our first report and recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management. Our surveys have also been the scientific foundation for our recent comments and protest on the Bureau’s proposed Management Plan for the Iceberg Point unit of the National Monument. In brief, the unique wildflower meadows and moss-lichen carpets at Iceberg are being whittled away by a combination of woody encroachment and visitor trampling. The remedies can be simple: hand-clearing of pioneer shrubs and trees along the advancing woody edge, and restricting access to a small number of well-maintained and clearly marked trails.

Visitors have increased sharply since the establishment of the National Monument, at least in part due to marketing by the Bureau and local business interests in the islands. The current public health emergency has resulted in heavier-than-ever visitor traffic, with more people coming from the mainland and less for them to do other than visiting public lands. We are relieved to report that, while the growth in recreational visitors has discouraged many Lopez islanders from enjoying Iceberg Point, the ecological impacts of increased foot traffic appear to be mainly confined to rocky areas where the main loop trail is poorly demarcated. These sensitive “balds” are priority habitats in our state, and home to at least two of the rarest wildflowers on Lopez, and they should be protected by split-rail fencing and signs, as detailed in our full 2020 report.

We note that the Iceberg landscape was designated a federal Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) thirty years ago, and the management plan specifically adopted for Iceberg in 1990, still in force, expressly prioritizes conservation of plant species and habitats over recreational access. Since 2005 we have repeatedly asked the Bureau to exercise its authority under the 1990 plan to block public access to particularly sensitive habitats, and to mobilize volunteer hand-clearing of encroaching shrubs.
Kwiaht 2020 Iceberg Wear Assessment