So opines the conservative Ventura Star on the proposal by Duncan Hunter, a Republican Congressman, to turn Santa Rosa Island over to the military as a hunting preserve. According to the Star’s flinty editorial, this is the second time that Hunter–the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee–has proposed making this large national park a private playground; they call it "dishonest, sneaky, and unnecessary," and note that Hunter made the same proposal back in May, but dropped it after protests.
"Unnecessary" because members of the military, like all members of the public, already have a right to enjoy this large, wild island. "Sneaky," because like so many other Republican land-grabs before the Congress this Christmas season, the proposal is not a bill, but a tiny provision tucked into a massive defense appropriations bill, and thus difficult to debate and discuss–far less defeat–by critics. (Who, as the LATimes times notes, are crying "foul!") And "dishonest," because the real point of the measure is not to reward the military, but to reward the operators who run the hunting concession. The island was purchased by the government in l986; under the original agreement, hunting will be allowed for another six years, and then the island will become a natural preserve, like other national parks.
The best writing on this topic seen by this observer so far comes from Kurt Repanshek, an author who has written a number of books on the national parks, and posts the wonderfully witty National Parks Traveler. His lede opens:
If you believe the folks at Multiple Use Managers, Incorporated, some of the best hunting for Roosevelt elk and mule deer in the West can be found just off California’s Pacific Coast on Santa Rosa Island.
So good is the hunting, believes Representative Duncan Hunter of California, that the island, which just happens to be part of Channel Islands National Park, should be turned over to the Defense Department and transformed into a posh hunting preserve for the military.
To check out this contention, I talked to our Congressman’s office. Republican Elton Gallegly represents this portion of California (although technically Santa Rosa is not part of his district). I spoke to his local representative Brian Miller. Miller was unsure about this measure’s chances. He said it is coming up afor a vote as part of the defense appropriations bill this week, but he said that when he talked to military representatives, they wanted nothing to do with supplying, maintaining, and overseeing an island of nearly 60,000 acres, on which live a number of endangered species.
As one enviro activist suggested to me last week, Republicans in Congress may be pushing these measures now, sensing the tides turning and the real possibility of the loss of a Republican majority in 2006.
But isn’t it interesting that the alleged beneficiaries of this measure don’t even want the island?
Leave it a national park, I say, as beautiful (and almost as untouched) as it was a century ago: