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Wondering about Lopez BLM Lands?

Attached you find the oft mentioned ACEC plan. The management direction is several paragraphs, beginning on p. 5, under Alternative One.

This is a lower level planning document that will no longer serve with the new RMP, though the principles of preservation, conservation and restoration, and the opportunity and need for public involvement will still be in place.

During the RMP planning process, which is still underway, we LEGALLY cannot change the active management of an area that is being considered as part of the plan. Note: there are no trails defined in the ACEC plan.

One of the first things we did was lead the charge for Leave No Trace in the San Juan Islands, getting in front of the creeping changes associated with being overloved. Nick's initiative went so far that the county actually adopted it as their own. We are the only Leave No Trace county in the USA. We also rallied the islands through the Terrestrial Managers Group into a commitment for a sustainable tourism model, informed by the visitors, residents, and business comprehensive surveys completed in the last couple years. Remember that Saturday meeting in May, 4 hours, 100 attendees? That started the whole county finding its way in that direction.

But numbers were increasing, and for this reason, when several years ago everyone rallied to figure out what to do about all of the mess of social trails, we together decided which trails to use and which ones to discourage people from using without officially creating trails. That picture that you might have seen in a recent Kwiaht report does reflect the status of a rocky climb where the lichen was worn away. That one and many other routes were pretty effectively shut down when Nick and his great team of volunteers dragged a mass of wood debris from the woods and placed it to physically discourage use of those routes. We also strongly messaged people to stay on the preferred "trails". And we put in a couple of driftwood signs to stop the more erosive or dangerous activities. You can see for yourself the change in use patterns by looking carefully at the big map at the fork in the trail: that google image was taken before we all met and the volunteer team located the debris. You can see all the social trails that have gone back to nature. That sign, also, reflected the specific messaging that was defined at that trails meeting re what messages were important, though you see the signage allowed in the plan is for wayfinding.

We were, however, warned by our planners to change nothing for how it was being managed!

For this reason, in order to slow visitation and minimize impacts we disallowed the San Juan Transit putting Iceberg and Watmough on their route, we had the SJINM identification on the Lopez visitor map changed from Park to Natural Area, and we make sure the Lopez Chamber and the SJC Visitors Bureau do no marketing for the monument. We also have repeatedly asked them to use no images of monument landscapes.

For the record, visitation to Iceberg has doubled in the last 9 years, a trend that began three years before the designation. There may be many reasons for this growth, which in part might be the monument designation, but we also believe it is tied to a younger wealthier healthier Seattle community, and the news media promoting fear of foreign travel. Regardless,the fact is San Juan's tourism has grown the most and on each of the islands including Lopez, the State Parks units always has the highest visitation numbers.(SJC Visitors Study 2017 results)

The traffic counters we use measured almost exactly half of the number of visits this summer compared to last!

We had Stetson University do a gridded floristic study of the ACECs (2016) and also they reviewed the monitoring forms and protocol of the Volunteer Monitors (two thumbs up!)

We had a BLM botanist GPS location of all the plants that Kwiaht has shared, and more, in preparation for making avoidance maps for cultural surveys to occur on Iceberg (which must happen for every action plan that will disturb the surface - think: officially creating trails).

We worked with the adjacent landowners to design a sign to their liking, to make sure we were taking care of them in the meantime, while we are completing the RMP. I think we have discovered since then, two years later, what improvements might be made to that sign, to better serve local land owners. We're just about to convene that meeting. We also have started talking about forest plans with our neighbors.

We had UW Prof Peter Dunwiddie(designer of the pre-contact style restoration of Yellow Island) with a team make a vascular plant study of the monument, which data was added to the [link=http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/resources/sanjuanatlas.php@UW Floristic Atlas of the San Juan Islands] by the Burke Museum.

[link=https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328811647_Vascular_Plant_Surveys_in_the_San_Juan_Islands_National_Monument@His report] was illuminating!

It was Dr. Dunwiddie that pointed out that the plants we had "protected" with a corral at Iceberg had been crowded out by the now healthier grasses. The plants were now in the trail and on the other side of the trail! Also by limiting the visitor access to a small trail atop Indian Island, Canada Geese had moved into the peaceful neighborhood and chowed down on the careful native plants restoration work of the Indian Island Marine Observatory.

We've had the San Juan County Noxious Weed Control Board direct us in the most effective practices that don't use herbicides, which we also share with the great LICC teams who have joined us working out there. And there are numerous diehard volunteers who probably do the lion's share of of weed removal - THANK YOU!

There are some tough spots on the rocks that could see some wayfinding direction. Skeet and Mike are working that out presently. I'm sure there are more issues and I know there are people who will point them out. Actually, we count on these opportunities because they create momentum!

What's next? We are in the process of doing cultural surveys on all of the monument landscapes and Iceberg is next on the agenda. As soon as the RMP is signed it will be time to work on implementation planning, which the community will be involved in and the MAC will be essential! It takes planning for the 30,000 foot level to the on-the-ground level. Its what everyone has been waiting for, MUCH more interesting!

Then! Everyone, including the tribes, gets to work together to make the formal decisions for interpretation and preservation, and trails management on these very special landscapes! Myself - I'm looking forward to the "Socks On Rocks" messaging to keep people off the lichens, or at least their shoes. I bet you all have some brilliant ideas you would like to offer, as well!

Thank you for your support of Nick, Rosie, Skeet, and myself through these six long challenging planning years, as well as your sustained phenomenal stewardship. Lopez hosts the longest running volunteer managed monitor program, three times nationally recognized. Kwiaht, the Lopez Trails Network, Islanders for the SJINM, and many other volunteers and professionals all are shepherds of this effort. In truth, this is the only MAC in the US that always has more applications than positions and that has a positive relationship with the local BLM. At this point, after all your investment, its a wonder any of us has any hair left. But thank you all for your generosity and high standards!

Your feedback, input, and participation is always welcome!
Marcia deC, Monument Manager

SubjectWondering about Lopez BLM Lands?
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