Iceberg Point in jeopardy | Letter

The Bureau of Land Management has chosen the worst possible time to authorize a Central Washington University professor and 25 inexperienced students to spend a month digging test pits in the unique wildflower meadows of Iceberg Point, searching for artifacts and combing the fragile lichen-covered rocky outcrops for petroglyphs. This project will make no significant contribution to the management of the National Monument, of which Iceberg Point is a part; but it will do irreparable damage to the native plant communities for the protection of which the National Monument was established in 2013.

BLM contends that this “field school,” which will be authorized to excavate roughly 1,000 pits and trample the entire landscape, is “non-destructive”; will not affect any federal- or state-protected species; and will not spread weeds. Scientifically, this is pure nonsense. Shoveling 3,000 square feet of a thin fragile wildflower meadow in midsummer does kill plants, disrupt soil organisms and open up patches of bare soil for colonization by weeds. Walking over lichen carpets in summer kills lichens, and they may never regrow – a fact recognized by BLM itself when it closed trails last year. There are a number of listed plant species at Iceberg, and it hosts the largest documented occurrence of a rare yellow form of Chocolate Lilies.

The government waited a year before making its plans public, and then gave islanders just two weeks to comment, and a few more weeks to complain to their representatives before the shovels hit the ground in July. This behavior is utterly incompatible with the Proclamation creating the Monument, and statements made by Interior Department officials.

BLM chose the worst time to betray the trust of islanders: just days after the new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said that the administration was not considering revoking our National Monument because it was not controversial. Well, BLM itself is creating a controversy and trying to persuade Lopezians to remain silent.

Do not remain silent; contact your county council member, Congressman Rick Larsen, and CWU President James Gaudino.

To view the proposed authorization and submit comments (by May 27)

Madrona Murphy and Russel Barsh

Lopez Island