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San Juan County Land Bank

The Land Bank Story

San Juan County, 1990: Land development and tourism were on the rise, and the county’s population was rapidly growing. Facing the loss of places they loved, a diverse group of locals sought a way to save treasured lands and maintain quality of life.

Their vision led to the creation of the San Juan County Land Bank. The Land Bank was charged with conserving exceptional places in the islands, guided by local input. A one-time 1% real estate excise tax paid by purchasers of property at closing was created to fund the program. In this way the community could protect those special places that brought them here.

This community investment has paid off in spades. Islanders and visitors alike enjoy the benefits of protected farms, forests, shores, and scenic vistas, and access to a remarkable array of public lands.

Habitat Restoration

Salmon Recovery

The County’s only remaining wild salmon run occurs on Orcas Island, in the lower reaches of Cascade Creek. In 2016, your conservation Land Bank purchased a corridor along the stream to protect this habitat for native salmon and coastal cutthroat trout. We’ve since planted trees to enhance shade and structure, collaborated with neighbors to increase flow, and contracted with scientists to monitor the fish. Watch the video below to learn more about fish biologist Jenny De Groot’s stewardship of Cascade Creek.

Protecting the Last Wild Salmon Run in the San Juan Islands.


Healthy communities need clean air and water, access to nature and food to eat. Agricultural products that are sourced and sold within the island community support the local economy and promote food security. At its inception, the Land Bank recognized the importance of preserving farmland and included agriculture as a component within its wide-ranging organizational mandate.

The Land Bank has two main strategies for protecting agricultural land in the County. We limit development on private lands through the purchase of conservation easements, and we purchase properties that are then leased to local farmers. To date, the Land Bank has protected 1,600 acres of farmland and leases nearly 400 acres to local farmers.

Collaboration and partnerships are a key tenet of successful agriculture, especially in a community dispersed across multiple islands. The Land Bank is proud to have partnered this past year with SJC Ag Guild, WSU Extension, and the Lopez Community Land Trust. We’re also tremendously grateful to the all-volunteer Conservation Ag Resource Team. This diverse group of resource professionals and members of the public collectively contributed 1,000+ hours to develop recommendations for the Land Bank’s largest agricultural investment, Coffelt Farm Preserve on Orcas Island.

Contact Tanja Williamson at 360.370.7655 or email to sign up for volunteer announcements, as well as receive notification of upcoming plants sales or other nursery events.

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Connect with Nature

Discover San Juan Islands

Your Conservation Land Bank turned 30 last year and celebrated by teaming up with the Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Island libraries to create fun and engaging activities for community enjoyment. The activity packets were so popular we’re bringing them back. Gather your friends and family and discover what your public lands have to say!

Click here to download an activity packet: or call Tanja Williamson at 360-378-4402 for a printed copy.

Visitor Guidelines for Land Bank Preserves:

  • Stay on designated trails
  • Use is daytime and pedestrian only unless otherwise marked
  • Use a leash for your dog
  • Take nothing
  • Leave nothing

Preserve Maps

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