Friends of the San Juans (FRIENDS) was founded in 1979 to support San Juan County's efforts to manage growth and protect natural environments. Since then, FRIENDS' activities have expanded to include: marine research and habitat restoration; shoreline stewardship and conservation; land use and environmental compliance; and, endangered species protection.
FRIENDS' efforts assured adoption of the County's first Comprehensive Plan, at a time when farsighted islanders saw the need to manage growth. Following the passage of the Growth Management Act in 1990, FRIENDS was involved in the development of the 1998 Comprehensive Plan, and in subsequent appeals to ensure compliance with the Act. With extensive experience in planning and land use law, FRIENDS is often called upon by concerned citizens and land managers to help ensure environmental protection.
Beginning in 2001, FRIENDS began identifying and mapping San Juan Countys nearshore ecosystems, including: surf smelt and sand lance spawning beaches, herring spawning sites, nearshore eelgrass beds, feederbluffs, and shoreline modifications. Using state survey protocols, FRIENDS has collected and provided best available science on San Juan Countys shoreline habitat to over 175 local, state, federal, tribal and NGO scientists and land managers. FRIENDS uses results from nearshore assessments to identify restoration priorities and implement habitat improvement projects. FRIENDS is also applying the results of the forage fish and eelgrass habitat surveys and other best available science to prioritize shoreline properties for conservation protection through land acquisition, easements and improved management.
FRIENDS reaches out to private shoreline landowners, boaters, teachers, land managers and realtors about nearshore habitats and shoreline protection techniques through expert lectures, workshops and trainings, feature newsletter articles, and media outreach. FRIENDS is dedicated to applying science to improved stewardship of public and private lands in San Juan County.
We serve as full-time members of the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee and the San Juan County Water Resources Committee and as members of other planning/advisory committees like the San Juan Initiative, Critical Areas Ordinance, Stormwater and Septic committees. FRIENDS also participates in regional research, planning and recovery efforts for orca, salmon, and eelgrass. Each year, FRIENDS helps with beach and marine clean-up efforts to maintain the integrity of our islands. FRIENDS has also been monumental in bringing forth a county-wide ban on polystyrene take-out food containers.
FRIENDS believes that protection of the regions critical resources requires partnerships between decision-makers, business leaders, service groups, conservationists, tribes and individual property owners. FRIENDS programs involve the people who live, work and recreate around the islands. With San Juan Countys ever-changing population of residents and visitors, expanded science and updated regulations, communication with land managers and property owners is essential.