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Guest Commentary / San Juan Islands

National recognition for an understated gem

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By Tom Murphy
We call the San Juan Islands home, we live and work here. For many of us work involves sharing our beautiful, natural, surroundings with visitors from all over the country and the world. Within the community we have taken initiative to preserve this natural beauty. The paddling community has embraced the Kayak Education Leadership Program with the goal of educating private and commercial kayakers about the laws and etiquette of paddling around the magnificent marine life we encounter. As a community we are excited for the designation of the San Juan Islands National Monument.
In this designation, President Obama has given public lands permanent protection benefiting the wildlife, tourists and recreationalists who enjoy them while ensuring our natural spaces will remain accessible and undeveloped indefinitely.
Outdoor Odysseys Sea Kayaking, was founded in the San Juan Islands 26 years ago. Based in Friday Harbor, we offer tourists and locals alike memorable sea kayaking experiences. In addition to Orca whales, we spot bald eagles, harbor seals, river otter, Lion's Mane jellies, Ochre sea stars and even minke whales in these waters.
Protecting the public lands of the San Juan Islands preserves this incredible wildlife habitat and, in turn, our local jobs and economy.
The Outdoor Industry Association attests that recreation in Washington State supports 226,600 jobs, including the 12 passionate and knowledgeable naturalist guides of Outdoor Odysseys Sea Kayaking. As San Juan Island's champion, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell testified before Congress recently, "Our public lands and Indian lands are huge economic engines for the nation. From energy development, to grazing, to logging, tourism and outdoor recreation, our lands and waters power our economy and create jobs."
Ensuring conservation is on equal ground with development of our public lands is critical if tourism and outdoor recreation are to remain economic drivers. Protecting San Juan Islands' public lands as a National Monument has done just that.
Thanks are due to the leadership of President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; the unwavering support of Sens. Cantwell and Murray, Reps. Larsen and DelBene, Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze; and the tenacity of many small business owners, tourism officials, community leaders and local officials who fought for years for these public lands to receive permanent protection.
I welcome the president, Secretaries Salazar and Jewell, Acting Director Kornze, and our esteemed congressional delegation to explore America's newest National Monument from the water and the shore as our guests to see first hand why local communities and businesses fought so hard to protect these public lands. Thank you for all your hard work in creating lasting protection of our beautiful home, we hope you can join us here in the San Juan Islands to celebrate.

Tom Murphy, owner of Outdoor Odysseys Sea Kayaking in Friday Harbor.

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