IMAGE: SANTA ROSA ISLAND
National Park Service
Santa Rosa Island, 40 miles off Santa Barbara, Calif., is part of the National Park Service system and the site for a proposal to allow U.S. military personnel to hunt for elk and deer.
updated 5/3/2006 10:40:33 AM ET 2006-05-03T14:40:33

The chairman of the House Armed Services committee is reviving a controversial proposal to allow members of the military to hunt deer and elk on a national park island off California. Opponents fear the plan could limit public access to Channel Islands National Park and threaten native species.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., backed off his plan to allow military hunting on 53,000-acre Santa Rosa Island after objections from senators last year. But a major defense bill his committee takes up Wednesday may revive the proposal, according to bill language circulated Monday.

Hunter’s proposal would allow the hunting of nonnative elk and deer on Santa Rosa Island, 40 miles off Santa Barbara, to continue indefinitely even though a court-ordered settlement calls for it to end in 2011.

Hunter has argued that this would create a recreational opportunity for veterans and others, and also prevent the “extermination” of the game. But the National Park Service, which purchased Santa Rosa Island for $30 million from a local ranch family in 1986, says hunting restricts public access and makes it harder to promote native species like the endangered island fox.

Hunter’s provision requires the secretaries of Interior and Defense to “permit disabled veterans, persons assisting disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces to hunt and participate in other recreational activities” on Santa Rosa Island. It also says that the number of deer and elk on the island should remain stable.

IMAGE: ISLAND FOX
National Park Service
This fox is among the wildlife that the National Park Service fears could be impacted by hunting on Santa Rosa Island.
There are now about 400 deer and 700 elk. Under the current settlement agreement the number of animals is supposed to be reduced starting in 2008.

Hunter’s new proposal was met angrily by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Democratic Rep. Lois Capps, whose district includes Santa Rosa. Capps’ aides distributed the bill language to reporters Monday.

“This is Chairman Hunter’s third attempt in less than a year to exclude the public from accessing the national park that they paid $30 million for,” Capps said. “The issue of Santa Rosa Island has no place in the defense authorization bill.”

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