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.
Now, there's no doubting Representative Hunter's support of the U.S. military. He's chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and his website not only explains how you can help U.S. troops, but it offers a tutorial on how the U.S. Armed Forces can be made even more powerful.
But apparently, like his cross-state colleague, Representative Richard Pombo, he's not too big on national parks. Evidence of that lies in Representative Hunter's amendment to transform Santa Rosa Island into a hunting camp for the military.
Hunter's proposal is buried deep within a defense appropriations bill. In Section 28, which pertains to the "Morale, Welfare and Recreation" of the U.S. military, Hunter proposes that the Secretary of Defense take over the 52,794-acre Santa Rosa Island and convert it into an R-and-R retreat for the military.
Furthermore, his amendment directs that the defense secretary "ensure that each recreational activity, including hunting, provided as part of the operation is provided at a level comparable to or greater than the level of the activity occurring on Santa Rosa Island as the date of the enactment of this Act."
Oh yeah, he also wants to set aside part of the island for special ops training.
Why does the military need its own hunting preserve, and why on Santa Rosa Island? There's incredible elk and mule deer hunting in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, just to name a few other options. Heck, the hunting's probably more challenging in those states than on an island in the ocean.
Beyond that, Channel Islands National Park National Park is an incredible resource that protects a wide array of unique plants and animals as well as an alluring marine environment. Visitors to the five islands that comprise the national park come for sea kayaking, birding, camping, diving, backpacking and just plain solitude.
Now Representative Hunter wants to cleave off a portion of the park for the military. The folks over at the National Parks Conservation Association ferreted out the Republican's amendment, and they're naturally concerned about it.
"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, and would result in a sweetheart deal for a well-connected family that has already sold their estate effective at the end of 2011 for $30 million," says Ron Sundergill, the NPCA's Pacific regional director.
That "sweetheart deal" Sundergill mentions apparently involves Vail &Vickers Inc., which opened a cattle operation on the island in 1901. In 1986, when the National Park Service acquired Santa Rosa Island to include it in Channel Islands National Park, Vail & Vickers was given $30 million along with a 25-year lease to continue ranching. A sideline of that ranching operation is guided hunts for elk and deer on the island from mid-August into November.
Those hunts are overseen by Multiple Use Managers, which runs guided hunts elsewhere in California and Alaska.
With that 25-year lease nearing its end in 2011, NPCA officials believe that Representative Hunter's amendment is intended not only to give the military a place to play, but also to extend the guided hunting operation.
"What would Representative Hunter, why would anybody for that matter, want to suddenly restrict a large portion of this beautiful place to a small portion of Americans?," wonders Sundergill. "It makes no sense! We can only guess that the reason this is being proposed is to protect the commercial interest that operates the elk and deer hunting venture on the island."