NPS Hearing Follow Up: Channel Islands Park Debate

Channel Island National Park : NPS PhotoAs it turns out, I was nowhere near a computer yesterday morning to listen to the live webcast of the Congressional Subcommittee meeting that took place in D.C. The meeting was supposed to cover the newly proposed National Park Service budget, but as I understand it, there were some other debates going on as well.

They did talk about the budget. You can read about it at in this post at the National Parks Traveler website. It sounds as if the subcommittee is dubious that the Federal matching program will work as advertised. It has been noticed by the committee that the NPS construction budget has been significantly reduced, but that private dollars, collected as part of the Centennial Challenge, could be used for new construction projects within the NPS. I don't think the committee appreciates that type of slight of hand.

I noticed in the paper today that a more contentious debate occurred between two congressional representatives arguing about the hunting issue happening in Channel Islands National Park on Santa Rosa Island. As addressed in this audio program earlier this week, the hunt is opposed by a lot of people. But there are some powerful people in government that really really want this recreational hunting program to remain. Read this fiery exchange which occurred yesterday [full article here]:
[Lois] Capps, a Santa Barbara Democrat, touched off the exchange when she suggested midway through the hearing that it is unfair that 90 percent of the island must be closed to the public for half of the year to accommodate private deer and elk hunts.

Capps said the nonnative deer and elk should be removed, and she urged the subcommittee to protect "all of the assets of all national parks, including Santa Rosa Island."

[Don] Young, a Republican [from Alaska], quickly responded that he supports leaving the animals on the island as a way to protect them from diseases that have inflicted herds in other parts of the country.

When Capps suggested that hunting, not disease, poses a real threat to the animals, Young became visibly perturbed.

"What was the island originally used for?" he asked.

"It was owned by the family," Capps said, referring to the Vail & Vickers cattle ranching family that sold the island to the National Park Service in 1986.

"It was owned by the Spanish in the beginning," Young countered. "They put the sheep on that island. They put the cattle on that island."

Since then, Young said, the island, which sits 40 miles off the coast of Ventura County and is part of Channel Islands National Park, has been used for agriculture and livestock purposes. "Now," he said, his voice rising in anger, "you want to take that out and put it back to the pristine environment from what it was before man ever existed?"

"There is nothing on that island. Nothing!" he continued, growing more agitated. "The island has no trees. It's a bare island. It is a bare
island! -- To say that now that you can't have other animals there -- is dead wrong!"

At that point, the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., promptly cut off the discussion.


"It was owned by the Spanish in the beginning."

Wrong. Well, depends on which "beginning" to which one refers, and how one defines ownership. For this Alaskan Republican, the "beginning" refers to post-European contact. In one simple sentence, he cavilerly dismissed 20,000 years of human history. While American Indians extensively modified their environment, they didn't transport deer or elk to the island. The ignorance of our elected representatives is saddening.