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The Legacy of Yellow Island

In the heart of the San Juan Islands lies an 11-acre island of wildflower savannas and old-growth firs surrounded by a rock-ribbed intertidal sea.

This is Yellow Island, the jewel of the “Islands of Life,” the first major campaign of the then-new Washington Field Office of The Nature Conservancy.

In 1979, Joe and Sally Hall chose to sell Yellow Island to the Conservancy because they wanted it to be preserved as it was when Sally's parents, Lew and Elizabeth "Tib" Dodd, homesteaded in 1947.

For 30 years the Conservancy has honored the Dodd and Hall family legacy, preserving, restoring and expanding what the Dodds began.

Couple lived in harmony with nature

When Lewis and Elizabeth Dodd bought the island in 1947, they were determined to live in peaceful coexistence with nature. An avid reader of Thoreau, Lewis Dodd strongly believed in self-sufficiency. After living in a tent for two years, he and Tib moved into a house, a small rustic cabin they built with beach-combed timber and rock. This distinctive landmark remains basically unaltered to this day.

As the Dodds cultivated a small garden, planted a few fruit trees and grape vines and raised chickens and pigeons for meat, they left the island’s wealth of animals and plants largely undisturbed. Their years on the island were testimony to a lifestyle in harmony with nature.

Today, a pair of bronze memorial plaques for the Dodds, their cabin and a few inconspicuous nature trails serve to remind us of Yellow Island’s former occupants.

Centerpiece of conservation

The Conservancy’s Phil Green has been the steward of Yellow Island for 11 years, maintaining the driftwood and stone homestead built by Lew, daily recording the island’s natural history, and lighting controlled burns to preserve the centuries-old grassland and wildflower habitat.

With 1,500 visitors every year, the island is now the centerpiece of the Conservancy’s marine conservation efforts in the San Juans.

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