Guardians Forever

Dean Dougherty carries a red file folder like a missionary with a bible as he walks along a wooded pathway on a sunny July day. The folder contains a sheaf of maps, photos, and documents that define a conservation easement on the land that Dean—the San Juan Preservation Trusts’ Director of Stewardship—is inspecting, a parcel near Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. “This is a ‘forever wild’ easement,” he says. “It’s pretty simple—nothing can happen here. There are no buildings on this property. It’s just five acres of trees and critters and a short trail. My job here is to make sure it stays that way.”

SJPT Stewardship Director Dean Dougherty monitors a conservation easement.

He traverses the property for 20 minutes, occasionally consulting the red folder for guidance. “Looks good,” he says. “Time to move on to the next one.”

The Preservation Trust currently holds 226 conservation easements (and counting). Collectively, they protect 13,564 acres—that’s 21 square miles—scattered all over the San Juan Islands. As holder of the easements, the Trust is responsible for enforcing the unique terms of each one, now and forevermore. To do this, Dean or another member of the SJPT stewardship staff inspects each property once a year. “On average,” he says, “we’ve found less than one violation per year for more than 200 easements. That’s pretty good.”

What happens when they do find a violation? “We try to resolve them amicably. But sometimes we have to resort to stronger measures. Lately we’ve been dealing with one on San Juan Island. The owner hired someone to cut a bunch of trees to improve the view. The easement was ‘forever wild,’ so cutting trees wasn’t allowed. We’re filing a suit for damages, which will be used to replant the trees.”

A 2014 example of illegal clearcutting in Anacortes
What happens when they do find a violation? “We try to resolve them amicably. But sometimes we have to resort to stronger measures."

Dean’s next stop is the home of Don and Sandra McVay, also near Deer Harbor. The McVays’ conservation easement, which they donated to the Trust in 1987, protects a one-acre parcel adjacent to their home lot. Although it’s among the smallest easements the Trust holds (the largest is 2,300 acres), the steeply sloped property has 130 feet of shoreline and hosts a typical mix of Douglas-firs, cedars, madronas, and a few small maples and junipers. One Garry oak tree corkscrews skyward near a rocky clearing dappled with moss, lichen, and native grasses.

This single acre is an unspoiled island microcosm. Don and Sandra are clearly happy and proud to know that the Preservation Trust will monitor and guard it long after they’re gone.

Sandra and Don McVay, proudly standing by a sign on their property that says "San Juan Preservation Trust Protected Land."

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Landowners retain many of their rights, including the right to own and use the land, sell it, and pass it on to their heirs. –Land Trust Alliance

If you would like to explore how a conservation easement could meet your long-term needs and wishes as a landowner, call the SJPT office at 360-378-2461.

The view from Bald Bluff Conservation Easement on Blakely Island

Views from the Top

“Has this always been here?” Bobby Hendel could hardly believe it. He and his wife, Theresa, had been coming to San Juan Island to escape the summer heat of Lubbock, Texas, for 15 years, but a recent Sunday in July was first time they had visited Mount Grant Preserve. “We never knew about it until we saw the sign a few weeks ago,” Theresa said. “The views are amazing!”

Bobby and Theresa Hendel escaping the Lubbock, TX, heat on Mount Grant, San Juan Island

It’s a refrain often heard during Sundays at the Summit on Mount Grant. Also recorded on the same day of the Hendels’ visit: “A favorite spot of mine. Never disappoints!” –Carmen W. “What a beautiful place!” –Dale and Stephanie L. “Definitely the best view on San Juan Island. And, now that we’re getting older, we really appreciate that you can drive up.” –Two longtime Friday Harbor residents

Admiring the panoramic view

The gate to the top of the Preserve will continue to be open to vehicles from noon to 6pm each Sunday through September. (The preserve is open to hikers 7 days a week, all year.) Also still in full swing: the Campaign for Mount Grant Preserve.

Help us scale the summit!

We’re making progress—help us reach our fundraising goal! Every gift will be matched 1:1 until we can ensure that this unique island place is protected and accessible forever.

First time to the top: Mom and Dad from Ukraine on a visit to see their daughter (who lives on San Juan Island)

A Visionary Tradition

Bob and Pat Jester met as students at Iowa State University, where they bonded over Pat’s culinary creativity (she’s the author of several cookbooks) and a shared interest in places they’d seen while crisscrossing the country on family vacations. One place their childhood travels had overlapped was the San Juan Islands.

Pat and Bob Jester at their Orcas Island home

The couple settled in Des Moines, Iowa, where Bob still oversees a family insurance business, which his great-grandfather founded in 1897 as “Joshua Jester, Feed & Real Estate.” A popular county park in the Des Moines area bears the family name, donated to the public by Bob’s grandfather, Louis. “I guess you could say that an interest in land and conservation is a family tradition,” Bob says. He has served on the board of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for more than 20 years.

“I guess you could say that an interest in land and conservation is a family tradition,” Bob says.

Bob and Pat continued the Jester family tradition after buying a house on Orcas Island in the early 1980s. Among their generous contributions to the Preservation Trust is a conservation easement on property adjacent to Moran State Park. The 31-acre parcel connects the park to a large matrix of preserved lands that will keep much of Entrance Mountain forever wild and undeveloped.

“We don’t have any kids or heirs,” Pat says. “So the beauty of this place will be one of the most long-lasting things that we will pass along.”

Bob and Pat are members of the Gann Society. Members of the Gann Society have included the San Juan Preservation Trust in their wills.

This is the newsletter of the San Juan Preservation Trust, Box 759, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. © 2016 The San Juan Preservation Trust

Created By
Craig Canine


Photos by Kurt Thorson,, and SJPT staff

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