Congresswoman Lois Capps’ attempt to block a bill that would allow continuous hunting on Santa Rosa Island was shot down by the House Committee on Rules in Congress yesterday.

Capps’ Press Secretary Emily Kryder said Capps proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, but the House Committee on Rules blocked the amendment from coming to the floor for a vote yesterday. Capps was attempting to remove a provision from the act, which was passed on May 3, that would allow disabled veterans and active servicemen to hunt deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island.

“This provision would kick the public off Santa Rosa Island – a part of the Channel Islands National Park,” Capps said on the House floor yesterday.

In her speech, Capps said she thinks the Republican-dominated House Committee on Rules did not allow her amendment to come to vote on the House floor because Republicans feared the amendment would win.

“I can only assume the Republican leadership is afraid to have a debate on the issue, and I don’t blame them,” Capps said. “This provision is a travesty and they should be embarrassed. They might have to explain why the public should be kicked off this island so a privately-run and extremely lucrative trophy-hunting operation can continue in a national park.”

Cameron Benson is the executive director of the Environmental Defense Center – a Santa Barbara-based environmental advocacy group. Benson said the language in the defense bill allows military personnel to hunt deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island because the species are not native to the area. Benson said he thinks the proposal would threaten the island’s 11 endangered species.

If the National Defense Authorization Act is approved, Benson said, it will nullify a 1997 federal court settlement requiring the removal of all non-native deer and elk from Santa Rosa Island by 2011.

Kryder said this is Rep. Duncan Hunter’s, R-52, third attempt at securing hunting rights for veterans on the island. She said she thinks the proposition will hurt Santa Rosa’s ecosystem and the public who visits it.

“The proposition itself is just completely inappropriate – just a terrible idea,” Kryder said.

Benson said the Department of Defense did not ask for the provision and the National Park Service opposes it.

“I just think it’s interesting that a congressman is pushing something not recommended by Defense and completely opposed by the national park,” Benson said.

Benson said he thinks proponents of the National Defense Authorization Act are using disabled veterans to get the public’s sympathy for the hunting proposal.

“I think it’s shameful that [Hunter is] using wounded and disabled veterans as pawns,” Benson said.

Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein introduced a Senate resolution on May 5 to guarantee continued public access to Santa Rosa Island and to ensure that the National Park Service maintains management of the island.

“As part of our national park system, Santa Rosa Island is a national treasure that belongs to all of us – and its access to the public should not be limited,” Boxer said in a May 5 press release.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s National Park Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the issue on May 16.