Agreement Will Protect Turtleback Mt. (WA)

ORCAS ISLAND, WASHINGTON, 6/13/06 — A conservation partnership and the Medina Foundation today announced an agreement that will protect in perpetuity 1,587 acre Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Island, one of the largest privately owned properties in the San Juan archipelago. The sale by the Foundation and purchase by the partnership, scheduled to close later this year, will ensure that the mountain is protected in perpetuity for public use and conservation. The partnership, which includes the San Juan Preservation Trust, the San Juan County Land Bank, and The Trust for Public Land, will purchase the property enabling the Foundation to expand its support of social and educational charities throughout Puget Sound. The purchase price for the property is $17 million. The partnership is seeking to raise a total of $18.5 million to acquire the mountain and establish a stewardship fund to manage the site. To date, approximately $12.5 million has been committed to the project from public and private sources, leaving $6.0 million to raise by November 2006.

“This agreement presents a very unique philanthropic opportunity for the people of the Pacific Northwest,” said Tim Seifert, executive director of the San Juan Preservation Trust. “In addition to permanently protecting a signature Puget Sound landscape, the proceeds from the sale will be used by the Medina Foundation to provide critical human services in our region.”

“This is an excellent outcome for all of the organizations involved,” said Tricia McKay, executive director of the Medina Foundation. “We look at the sale of the Turtleback Mountain property as a way to continue to fulfill our mission to help those in need through grants to organizations that address such issues as homelessness, hunger, at-risk youth and families, and education assistance for those at risk of academic failure. The sale definitely helps fulfill that mission.”

Turtleback’s distinctive profile is visible throughout the archipelago, making it one of the most familiar properties in the San Juans. It is known to have served as a landmark for the Northern Straits Salish people as they traveled among their communities and fertile fishing grounds, and continues to greet island residents and visitors passing through the islands by boat.

“Turtleback Mountain is an iconic landscape, as important to the health and identity of the larger Puget Sound region as it is to the San Juan Islands community,” added Roger Hoesterey, northwest regional director of The Trust for Public Land.

The 1,578-acre Turtleback Mountain property was assembled by Norton Clapp, benefactor of the Medina Foundation, starting in the 1950s. Upon his death in 1995, the property was granted to the Foundation to support its philanthropic work. Although logged in the past, the property harbors remnants of old growth forest and a variety of unique ecosystems associated with the San Juan Islands, including dry oak-savannah habitat. It is an important watershed that significantly influences marine water quality in the area. The mountain is especially well-known for its views over the San Juan archipelago, the Canadian Gulf Islands, the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, and the numerous waterways in between. The property was listed for sale by the Medina Foundation in August 2005, and was actively pursued by residential and private resort developers before this agreement was reached. The Foundation chose to work with the conservation partnership to achieve preservation of the property.

Under this newly formed conservation partnership, the San Juan Preservation Trust, the national Trust for Public Land, and the San Juan County Land Bank will raise funds needed to complete the purchase and support the long-term management of the site. Turtleback Mountain is the second largest unprotected property in the San Juans, and has long been recognized by all three groups as the top priority for conservation in the islands.

“The Medina Foundation is happy about a conservation solution that simultaneously advances our mission of funding social services, said McKay. “We simply could not have arrived at a better win-win.”

Founded in 1979, the San Juan Preservation Trust?is a private, non-profit land trust dedicated to helping people conserve land in the San Juan archipelago. The organization has permanently protected over 200 properties, 22 miles of shoreline, and 10,000 acres on 17 islands, including land now managed as public parks, private nature preserves, and working farms and forests.

The Medina Foundation was founded in 1947 by Norton Clapp, former chairman and president of the Weyerhaeuser Company, to help those in need through grants to organizations throughout Puget Sound that address such issues as homelessness, hunger, at-risk youth and families, and education assistance for those at risk of academic failure.

The Trust for Public Landis a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Through its Puget Sound Shorelines Program, TPL is working to double the amount of shoreline protected as parks and natural areas in the next 15-20 years.

The San Juan County Land Bank?was created by citizen vote in 1990 to help preserve the unique natural heritage of the San Juan Islands. Since its inception, the Land Bank has protected over 3,000 acres of land, including picturesque shorelines and ridges, historical buildings and working farmlands. This public program is funded by a one percent real estate transfer tax paid for by purchasers of property in San Juan County.