Monday, June 25, 2007

CALIFORNIA NEWS: Santa Rosa Island Ungulates Soon To Be Back in Crosshairs

WASHINGTON -- Santa Rosa Island is once again the subject of federal legislation as California Democrats have taken steps toward restoring the National Park Service’s ability to help remove deer and elk from the island.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 2008 Interior Department spending bill Thursday and included a repeal of a section of law enacted late last year that restricted the park service.

Last fall, Rep. Duncal Hunter, D-Calif., specifically barred the park service from eliminating or nearly eliminating deer and elk from Santa Rosa Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park.

He had previously proposed transferring control of the island to the Defense Department and designating it as a hunting refuge for disabled veterans. But he failed to gain support for that measure.

Hunter’s provision, attached to the 2007 defense bill, intentionally conflicted with a court settlement that mandated the park service share in the cost of removing the last of the deer and elk from the island.


Under that settlement, Vail & Vickers, which holds a private hunting permit for deer and elk on the island, must begin culling the herds in 2008 and eliminate them by 2011, with the park service’s help.

The park service, which acquired the island from the Vail and Vickers family in 1986, believes the non-native deer and elk wreak havoc on the island’s ecosystem. The 53,000-acre island is home to hundreds of plant and bird species, as well as the native island fox and marine life.

Private hunting forces the park to close 45,000 acres of the island to the public from August through December.

Duncan’s law made it illegal for the park service to comply with the terms of the court settlement.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Rep. Lois Capps have been working to repeal the provision since it took effect in late 2006.

The panel’s spending bill would accomplish just that if it passes the full Senate and survives scrunity by the U.S. House later this year.

“To ensure that the public is able to enjoy year-round access to Santa Rosa and that the Park Service can protect the Island’s natural resources, it is critical that this ill-advised provision be repealed,” Capps said. “I am pleased that the Senate is moving quickly.”

Hunter’s office could not be reached for comment Friday.

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