The Lopez based scientific organization Kwiaht has released a critical evaluation of the Bureau of Land Management’s Draft Resources Management Plan for the San Juan Islands National Monument.
According to Kwiaht director Russel Barsh, the draft plan is preoccupied with increasing visitor access for recreation at the expense of scientifically sound strategy for protecting fragile habitats and disappearing native wildflowers and lichens. BLM proposes more trails, dispersed (off-trail) camping outside existing campsites, and potentially paved roads and artificial lighting for many if not all coasts and islands that comprise the Monument. “While new facilities would attract more tourists, BLM lacks adequate staff to monitor or manage existing levels of visitors,” Barsh says. “The draft plan disregards minimum staffing needs for growing uses, and that’s the problem degrading a lot of the national parks in our country.”
The Kwiaht evaluation also questions BLM’s proposal to use prescribed fires, pesticides, and herbicides in the National Monument to “restore” coastal meadows. Barsh explains that these methods have been tried on other public lands in the islands with poor results. “Native peoples used small flashy fires to help weed their camas gardens,” Barsh says, “but that was before 19th century sheep raising introduced fire-loving Eurasian grasses and other weeds that now dominate our remaining meadows. Burning today just produces more sheep pasture. And justifies government jobs.” The result can be a vicious circle of burning, applying herbicides, re-planting native wildflowers, and burning again. “Hand clearing is cheaper and can be done by local volunteers,” he adds.
The full BLM document can be read or downloaded at https://go.usa.gov/xRphc
Barsh encourages islanders to read Kwiaht’s evaluation, and to submit on-the-record comments to the BLM. If you have already submitted a comment to the BLM, you can submit an additional comment before the official comment period closes.
Kwiaht's comments are in the attached document, and can also be found at http://www.kwiaht.org/documents/Kwiaht_comments_on_SJINM_draft_RMP_EIS.pdf
Public comments on the draft BLM management plan must be made by January 3, and can be sent by mail to the Manager, San Juan Islands National Monument, P.O. Box 3, Lopez Island WA 98261, or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kwiaht also recommends that copies of comments also be sent to your County Council member and to Congressman Rick Larsen, who was instrumental in seeking greater protection for these island landscapes.
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