Following local Congresswoman Lois Capps’ lead, California’s two senators introduced legislation Tuesday to repeal part of a bill that detractors argue harms the natural cycle on Santa Rosa Island – and keeps non-native deer and elk on the extermination list.
If approved, the legislation would repeal a provision to the 2007 Defense Authorization bill that called for the Secretary of the Interior to cease the court-ordered removal of non-native deer and elk from the island – scheduled to occur by 2011 – which the National Park Service said harm the island’s delicate ecosystem.
Each year, in a process that shuts down approximately 90 percent of Santa Rosa Island to the public for roughly five months, a private company charges visitors to hunt the non-native animals. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer said that by allowing the animals to stay on the island indefinitely, the hunting would never stop, and public access to the island would be drastically hindered.
“I believe the continued limitation of public access to the island would be a mistake,” Feinstein said on the Senate floor. “This is the public’s land. It’s a national park, and the public should be able to visit it and enjoy its breath-taking beauty and remoteness year round.”
The controversial provision in the 2007 Defense Authorization bill, penned by San Diego congressman and presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter, would have annulled a 1997 court settlement to remove or exterminate the animals by 2011 in order to allow disabled veterans to hunt the same non-native animals. Hunter originally proposed transferring the island to the Dept. of Defense in 2005 but was shot down in his attempt to create what Capps called a “private hunting reserve for top military brass.”
Capps has fought multiple proposals from Hunter involving Santa Rosa Island and has been a constant critic of the congressman’s provision, arguing that it does not actually benefit veterans as Hunter claims, but harms the public. Capps said that when the provision is repealed, more visitors would have access to the island.
“May I remind the Committee that the public paid $30 million for this island 20 years ago,” Capps said on the House floor on Tuesday. “Some 5,000 people visit Santa Rosa Island each year and these numbers will increase commensurately once the island is open year-round to the public.”