Welcome to My Office
How I Spent My Summer with the BLM!
To my left, the majestic snow-capped Olympic Mountains oversee summer sailboats drifting through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At my right, calls of Glaucous-winged Gulls hover above the barking harbor seals. I watch as our visitors, witness to it all, inevitably grow silent in awe.
Welcome to My Office
I am part of the BLM's seasonal staff. My area of expertise is recreation. My locale, the San Juan Islands of Washington state. This past summer I could be found on the southern edge of Iceberg Point, one of four areas managed by the BLM on Lopez Island, a portion of the almost 1,000 acres under the BLM's purview throughout the archipelago. Here I welcomed visitors by the score to a remote spot so far north we can see our Canadian neighbors.
The Wild Life
In addition to welcoming many vacationers, I also conducted regular marine mammal watches at Iceberg Point. As the name indicates, visitors would join me to observe local marine wildlife of virtually every type. We saw harbor seals and their pups, Steller sea lions, Dall's porpoises, and even the mighty Minke whale. As a bonus, bald eagles, turkey vultures, great blue herons, and gulls swooped the air above our heads before dive-bombing down to the water below.
I was constantly inspired by my visitors' boundless enthusiasm for harbor seals sunning on the rocks below. It was impossible not to feel their infectious energy as I heard joyful exclamations from both young children and senior citizens alike. They all loved to observe the seals through the BLM's powerful viewing scope and binoculars which I brought to the lookout for their use. It was especially gratifying to see youths from urban environments get the opportunity to connect with nature. The educational outreach program was one of my favorite aspects of my job.
Another of my favorite experiences was to share stories of local history at nearby Watmough Bay, a very popular BLM site on Lopez Island. Both Iceberg Point and Watmough Bay average approximately 1,000 visitors per month during the peak months of July and August. And at Watmough I told the tale of an early settler family who homesteaded this land. In between relaying their exciting experiences, I also educated everyone on the importance of the bay's marine ecosystem. As a result of these talks, audience members often asked me numerous questions about their public land and its human and natural history. Engaging the public was usually the highlight of my weeks.
Visitors to the San Juan Islands are generally very respectful of the land. But no one is perfect. So I spent time beautifying the island picking up litter, reminding folks to leash their dogs, recommending the use of bike racks, and otherwise helping ensure the land was enjoyed by everyone. I was always inspired by the friendly responses I received. In addition to public outreach, island maintenance was a large part of my job. Brushing back foliage, cutting fallen trees out of trails, removing non-native plants, and replacing sun-faded signs were routine tasks that I enjoyed. And traveling to the outer islands was a special treat where I got to care for the historic lighthouses on Patos Island and Turn Point on Stuart Island. Volunteers often helped me. One great group is the Lopez Island Conservation Corps, a group of energetic high school students who commit to working on projects throughout the summer. And many others pitched in when they were available. I was impressed by our generous volunteers who volunteered their time to help maintain and enhance their public lands.
So, Until Next Year...
At the end of a long day, I loved to sit for a moment under my favorite Pacific madrone tree. In the distance, the crashing waves of Rosario Strait accompanied bird songs to play my own private chorus. It all reminded me that the natural world is an amazing and precious gift. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to protect this land and share its beauty with our visitors. So I hope you'll drop by my office next summer. You don't need an appointment. It's your public land - you're always welcome.