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Santa Rosa Island Showdown


    What is it with Republican congressmen from California? Did they drink the Kool-Aid?
    First Rep. Richard Pombo, considered Public Enemy No. 1 by many environmentalists, alternatively proposed selling off national park units or mining them to help generate revenues for the federal government.
    While he and his proposals have faded somewhat into the background of late, Rep. Duncan Hunter has jumped into the spotlight and is back at work trying to turn Santa Rosa Island, which is part of Channel Islands National Park, into a military-only hunting preserve.
    Fortunately, there's likely to be a showdown in Congress over Rep. Hunter's desire. 

    Congressman Hunter is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. As such, he's been conducting something of a stealth campaign to create the military hunting preserve.
    I say "stealth" because the proposal hasn't been aired in any public meetings. Instead, the Republican has tried to slip language into legislation to accomplish the deed. Last fall one of his efforts was rebuffed, but he's back at it this spring.
    Congresswoman Lois Capps earlier this week wrote Rep. Hunter to request he back off from his proposal. And now California's two senators -- Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer -- have joined the fray by introducing a resolution to the Senate asking that Santa Rosa Island now and forever be managed as part of the national park.
    Now, why, when there are millions of acres of public lands -- national forests, national preserves, Bureau of Land Management lands and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge lands -- open to hunting Rep. Hunter feels there's a need for a private hunting ground for military on Santa Rosa Island or anywhere else is beyond me.
    Whether he can convince Congress there's a need remains to be seen. For now, though, his opponents hope the resolution Sens. Boxer and Feinstein have introduced will end his bid.   

    Ron Sundergill, the Pacific regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, applauds the resolution. While it doesn't directly block Rep. Hunter's efforts, the resolution hopefully will spur some dialogue over his proposal, Sundergill told me.
    "What it's doing is creating a forum on the issue so that we can get out to the public the necessity of protecting Santa Rosa Island," says Sundergill.

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