The Land Bank Story
Over the years, islanders have feasted on clams, hunted for deer, picked berries, dug bulbs, and fished waters teeming with salmon. They have plowed fertile valleys, seeding their fields with peas, oats, wheat, and barley. On gentle slopes they planted large orchards with pears, plums, apples, and cherries. Their sheep and cattle once roamed at will.
Even today, island living is bounded by the seasons and centered around an easy-going sociability. It also signifies what it is to live in a climate of mutual respect and tolerance, however begrudging and hard earned. These are the qualities that bind us to one another and the land.
Islanders agree it is important to ensure that the distinct character of life in these islands will endure. As one way to do this, in 1990, they created the San Juan County Land Bank. The program is guided by the San Juan County Ordinance (Chapter 16.54, Citizens Conservation Land Bank). In 1999, by a nearly 73% majority vote, the program was renewed for 12 more years.
The Land Bank Mandate
To preserve in perpetuity areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, historic, scenic or low-intensity recreational value and to protect existing and future sources of potable water.
The primary source of funding is a one percent real estate excise tax paid by purchasers of property in San Juan County. Other sources of revenue include the conservation futures tax, private donations, grants and interest income.
Public opinion helps guide spending decisions. The Land Bank Commission’s seven citizen volunteers representing all the islands and the staff – director, land steward, preserve steward and program assistant – work together to allocate Land Bank dollars to meet its conservation priorities. Use the ’Islands at a Glance’ link to the left to see maps showing Land Bank projects. Commission meetings are held monthly and the public is always welcome.
Caring for the Land
Careful stewardship of Land Bank properties is a high priority. Our stewardship program puts the values and vision of the Land Bank’s mandate into action with the goal of understanding and protecting the significant conservation values of each property entrusted to our care.
The Land Bank is committed to protecting its conservation purchases forever with the establishment of a special stewardship endowment fund. The Land Bank Commission’s goal is that all expenses needed to care for Land Bank properties in perpetuity will be paid out of interest from this account.
In 2006, San Juan Preservation Trust and San Juan County Land Bank, with the support of the community, came together to purchase and place conservation easements on Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Island in San Juan County. Hear audio link for the history of those organizations and how they collaborated to save this iconic piece of land in the islands.
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