San Juan Islands now an official national monument

WASHINGTON - The San Juan Islands are now an official national monument, joining four other sites across the nation to receive the designation Monday by President Barack Obama.

Vice President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Obama Monday in the Oval Office as he signed five proclamations designating the sites under the Antiquities Act. The ceremony was closed to reporters.

Four islands make up the main draw in the San Juans, but there are 172 named islands and reefs -- some of them little more than rocks jutting out of the ocean.

One thousand acres of these pieces of land were at the heart of a passionate movement that put the tranquil San Juan's in the line of sight of Washington D.C. -- being named a national monument.

"This would protect them from development," said Rep. Rick Larsen during an interview in October. "These are lands that aren't developed now and they belong to the us taxpayer we want to protect them from any sort of development that might come in the future."

The area that would be covered by the national monument designation includes part of Lopez Island and the iconic Cattle Point Lighthouse.

"Me and my dad, we go down there and we just stand by the lighthouse and the wind is just barreling in and there's all the waves and it's kind of like, it's a magical experience," Rayna Ellis said.

In addition to the San Juans, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; First State National Monument in Delaware; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio were given the official status.

Biden has long sought the site in Delaware, his home state and the only state without a national park. Designating the 1,100 acre site is the first step toward creating a national park there.