Group says military could get Santa Rosa Island

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Posted by on December 11, 2005 at 23:38:51:

In Reply to: Military Wants Santa Rosa Island posted by on December 10, 2005 at 20:43:56:

An environmentalist group charged Friday that U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, plans to amend a pending defense bill to make Santa Rosa Island, now part of the Channel Islands National Park, an exclusive outpost for military training and recreation.

Santa Rosa, about 46 miles offshore, is the second largest of five undeveloped islands in the national park along the Southern California coast. The largest is Santa Cruz Island, of which 75 percent is owned by the Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit group that preserves examples of a variety of native wilderness.

Hunter's planned amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill would give Santa Rosa Island to the Defense Department and make it an exclusive recreational outpost and game reserve for armed services personnel and veterans, according to a news release from the environmentalist group, the National Parks Conservation Association. It also would allow military special operations forces to train on the island.

"This is supposed to be a national park, not a hunting preserve,"the association's director, Ron Sundergill, said Friday.

Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, said Hunter was traveling and unavailable Friday. Kasper referred questions about the Santa Rosa plan to Josh Holly, a House Armed Services Committee spokesman, who released this statement:

"Chairman Hunter has proposed an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would broaden the recreational use of Santa Rosa Island to the benefit of wounded and disabled members of the Armed Services who have sacrificed for our country."

Holly offered no further information about the plan.

Hunter, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, proposed a similar measure in May, but dropped it after objections from Democrats and environmentalists.

"This is a bad idea, and that's why its being pushed in secret negotiations," U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, told an Associated Press reporter Friday. Her district includes the 53,000-acre island.

"All Americans should have access to the Channel Islands National Park, not just top military brass, members of Congress and folks who can pay thousands of dollars to go on private hunting trips, Capps said.

Santa Rosa Island was a cattle ranch owned by the Vail Vickers Co. for 100 years. The family owned company sold the island to the federal government for $30 million in 1986, and continues to operate a commercial elk and deer hunting business there. The contract is expected to expire in 2011.

The National Park Service allows hiking, camping, scuba diving and other activities on Santa Rosa. The island is home to a number of unique species of plants and animals, including the island fox, the spotted skunk, and an island variety of the Torrey pine.

"This amendment is an attempt to grab a large portion of Channel Islands National Park and, in part, turn it into an exclusive commercial elk and deer hunting island compound for a small portion of Americans," states the National Parks Conservation Association news release.

The U.S. Navy owns San Clemente Island, about 65 miles offshore, which is at the southern end the Channel Islands chain and is not part of the national park. That island is used for bombing practice and other types of military training.

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