cover of Natural Areas of the San Juan Islands



Reward a completed task with a trip outside

Natural Areas of the San Juan Islands © 2007 by Terry Domico

© 2008 Beth Helstien

Having the assignment to write book review each month seems simple enough, especially for a person like me, who reads constantly. I am usually reading at least three different books.

But some book reviews are challenging. When one’s neighbor has written a terrible book, what does one say? How to write about a book about controversial issues without seeming to promote one side or another? How to write about subjects or genres with which I am completely unfamiliar without making a fool of myself? Not surprisingly, I have failed at all these assignments at one time or another.

Terry Domico succeeded beautifully last fall when he published Natural Areas of the San Juan Islands, completing an assignment he began more than twenty years ago. The book is a general field guide to sixty special locations owned by the public. The sites are mostly in San Juan County, but the book covers the bioregion of the Salish Sea, including areas near Anacortes, and a few sites in the Canadian gulf islands.

For each entry, there are directions on how to get to it, a map, and a description pointing out some of the key features.  The sites are a diverse mix, including mountain lakes and shoreline sites, prairies and wetlands. Some locations are important because they provide habitat for wildlife. Other places are important for the views to which they provide access, or the solitude to be enjoyed.

I thought I knew a fair amount about native plants and animals in the San Juans, but I learned a lot about special life forms: flying squirrels on San Juan Island, the brittle cactus, and the rough-skinned newt, for instance. Domico doesn’t insult his readers, assuming we can all follow along in his explanations of how natural processes shape the landscape we live in. Yet the book remains accessible to all.

Most people won’t sit down and read through a guide like this, but it is a book well-worth perusing. Inside one can easily find some new place to visit. Careful readers are sure to learn something new about a plant, animal or natural process that contributes to making the islands special.

The book inspired me to take more advantage of the natural places that grace these islands. Speaking of inspiration—congratulations are due to Domico for actually completing the book, bringing to fruition a project he thought about for more than two decades! I am sure this will become one of those books found in many island homes for years to come. That should be inspiration to all of us with writing assignments.

Natural Areas of the San Juan Islands, like all books reviewed here, may be found at the San Juan Island Library.

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