The University of Washington holds several large pieces of property in the San Juan Islands (San Juan County), Washington State. As the islands become increasingly developed, the value of these largely-natural areas becomes increasingly apparent. Together with National and State Parks in the islands, some core holdings by The Nature Conservancy and the San Juan Preservation Trust, and a few remaining large private holdings, the University properties are potentially very important within the context of the archipelago, as remnants of the natural ecosystem, sources of indigenous wildlife and plant populations to adjacent areas, and also as research natural areas.
Interest in the terrestrial portions of the 476 acre Friday Harbor Laboratories Preserve has been growing in the recent past, especially as our awareness has increased with the arrival and establishment of increasing numbers of exotic plants both at FHL and elsewhere on San Juan Island and throughout San Juan County in the 1990s. Efforts began in the year 2001 for better defining the kinds of stewardship that users of the property would like to see far into the future. An ad hoc committee of interested volunteers met several times to discuss stewardship issues in the FHL Terrestrial Preserve 2001-2003; a committee concerned with terrestrial stewardship issues on all of the UW Biological preserves was formalized as the University of Washington San Juan Islands Biological Preserve Committee in 2004. Several years ago, I spearheaded writing a draft vision statement for the Friday Harbor Laboratories Preserve. This vision statement has now been modified to cover goals on all of the University of Washington biological preserves in the San Juan Islands and has been formally endorsed by the committee in autumn 2005 to guide future management of the properties. Efforts to draw up management plans for each of the preserves are now underway beginning with a management plan for the Cedar Rock Preserve that will be considered by the committee at their spring, 2006 meeting.
Claudia Mills, with the assistance of Eugene Kozloff, has compiled an inventory of plants known to be on the FHL property, in spreadsheet form, with nearly 30 specific habitats surveyed. An abbreviated plant inventory matrix for the FHL Terrestrial Preserve is available on the web. Similar baseline plant inventories by habitat were made by Claudia Mills in the early 2000s for the 370 acre UW Cedar Rock Preserve and the 496 acre UW Fred and Marilyn Ellis Preserve, both on Shaw Island. Further work is to be done on these plant inventories.
Some relevant information about San Juan County forests written by Tom Schroeder, a biologist with 30 years of familiarity with the FHL property, is also available on the web. A compilation of 50 years of tree harvest statistics in San Juan County uses 5 figures to illustrate the boom or bust cyclic nature of forestry in this county, and compares forests in the San Juan Islands to those elsewhere in Western Washington. The presettlement condition of forests in the San Juans is explored by comparing the accounts of early European naturalists in our region (late 1700s), with the narrative and data of the General Land Office (GLO) survey done in this county in 1874, with some 1990 forest data for the same region. Many of the forests of Washington state are vulnerable to soil compaction by heavy equipment, especially when the forests are waterlogged in the winter. This is particularly true in the San Juan Islands. Go nearly to the end of this webpage to see a map showing that most of the forest soils in San Juan County are at high risk for soil compaction - all of the forest soils in the FHL Preserve are in the highly vulnerable category.