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San Juan Island National Historical Park staff have reviewed and analyzed public comments received on the European Rabbit Management Environmental Assessment released in July.
The purpose of this conservation planning initiative was to manage the impacts of European rabbits as part of a larger effort to restore the native prairie at the American Camp unit of the park at the southern end of San Juan Island. The American Camp prairie is one of the last surviving natural prairies in the Northern Straits and Puget Sound regions.
The Park received many thoughtful comments on this environmental assessment. A total of 138 comments were received from a wide range of stakeholders. The majority of comments expressed support for preserving the prairie landscape at American Camp. However, there was no consensus as to the best method to manage European rabbits and restore the prairie. Numerous concerns relating to the complexity of the restoration effort were brought forward, including comments specific to animal control, preservation of threatened and endangered species such as the rare island marble butterfly and the Federally threatened golden paintbrush, herbicides, hunting, and fencing.
Based on this input, the Park will take no action to implement the preferred alternative in this Environmental Assessment. Instead, the Park will work with the public and interested stakeholders to identify the best approach and means to restoring/managing the prairie and preserving cultural resources.
"The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process worked as it is intended. The spirit of NEPA calls for active public and interest group participation to inform decision-makers and minimize environmental impacts," said park superintendent Peter Dederich. "Like the community, the Park shares the goal of protecting and restoring the treasured prairie ecosystem, and we remain committed to working with the public to reach this end. We will continue to engage the public on the best means to achieve our joint prairie restoration goals."
In the near future, the Park will hold a series of workshops and discussion sessions to engage the public and delineate next steps.
More information on the Park's prairie restoration goals can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/sajh/naturescience/prairie-restoration-project.htm. The Park will continue to post updates to this website.