Press Releases

Senators Feinstein and Boxer Introduce Measure to Restore Full Public Access to Santa Rosa Island

- Bill would repeal provision sponsored by Rep. Hunter to close off 90 percent of the Island for months at a time for privately-operated deer and elk hunts -

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) today introduced a measure to remove limitations on public access to Santa Rosa Island. The island is part of the Channel Islands National Park, located off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.

“Santa Rosa Island is a rare and natural place.  But a measure slipped into the Defense Authorization bill late last year could cut off public access to the Island for months at a time,” Senator Feinstein said.  “This bill would repeal this provision and restore full public access to Santa Rosa Island all year long.”

“This bill would correct a terrible mistake that should never have been made. Santa Rosa Island is a natural gem, and all Californians and Americans should be able to enjoy it.  I will fight with Senator Feinstein to ensure that Santa Rosa Island, and all National Parks, remain open to everyone, not just a privileged few,” Senator Boxer said.

Specifically, the bill offered by Senators Feinstein and Boxer would repeal a provision sponsored last year by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) that could limit public access to Santa Rosa Island by extending the practice of allowing privately organized deer and elk hunting expeditions. These hunts require the closure of about 90 percent of the island to the general public for about four to five months each year. The provision was included in the FY 2007 Defense Authorization bill.

Representative Hunter’s measure also would complicate the National Park Service’s efforts to carry out a court-approved settlement to remove non-native deer and elk from Santa Rosa Island by 2011. According to the National Park Service, the private hunting of the deer and elk herds pose a threat to the island’s 11 endangered species, including the bald eagle, rare plants, and native birds and fox.

The Feinstein-Boxer legislation would reaffirm that Santa Rosa Island is to be managed under existing authorities for the National Park Service.

Representative Lois Capps (D-Calif.) has introduced companion legislation in the House.

“I want to thank Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer for continuing to work with me to protect public access to Santa Rosa Island,” Representative Capps said.  “I greatly appreciated their efforts last year to fight this inappropriate proposal.  Their legislation to repeal Congressman Hunter's misguided efforts to continue hunting on Santa Rosa Island indefinitely will ensure that the public will be able to enjoy full access to its National Park.  I hope our respective bills move quickly through the legislation in order to resolve unfortunate abuse of our National Park.”

Last year, veterans groups joined Senators Feinstein and Boxer to turn back efforts by Representative Hunter to turn the Island into a hunting preserve for disabled veterans. In fact, in July 2006, the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) reached the conclusion, following an investigative visit to Santa Rosa, that the “numerous obstacles inherent to the island, including ingress and egress, logistics, personal safety and cost, far outweigh the possible, limited benefit it could provide.”

California today has 9 military installations that permit hunting – five that can accommodate disabled service members.

Background on Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa Island is approximately 53,000 acres and lies about 50 miles west of Ventura Harbor.  It is the second largest of the five islands making up the Channel Islands National Park.

It is ecologically sensitive and includes several endemic plants and species.  For example, it is the only place in the world to see the island fox and spotted skunk in their natural habitat.  A variety of shore birds – like the snowy plover – and sea mammals – such as seals and sea lions – breed on its beaches. 

It is seen by many scientists as one of the nation’s most unique places.  In addition to being the home of rare flora and fauna, it is an archeological and paleontological treasure, with some sites dating back 11,000 years or the Pleistocene-era.  In fact, in 1994, the world’s most complete skeleton of a pygmy mammoth was excavated on the island.