by Ethan Stewart
Faced with a Republican-led scheme to convert Santa Rosa Island into a private hunting reserve for past and present military personnel, Congresswoman Lois Capps recently crossed the Channel to take a tour of the historic island. On Friday, August 4 — one day after the Senate passed a voice-vote resolution in opposition to San Diego Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter’s controversial bill — Capps went to the 54,000-acre island to bear witness to Santa Rosa’s varied ecosystems, dozens of endangered species, pristine wildlands, and the seemingly endless amount of Chumash artifacts and other archeological wonders. Joined by Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Chumash expert Dr. John Johnson and Tim Vail — of the island’s famous Vail and Vickers Cattle Ranch — Capps commented frequently throughout the day about the island’s environmental significance and the importance of maintaining public access to “one of the Central Coast’s true jewels.”
Though the current incarnation of Hunter’s bill seems to be dead in the water, he appears committed to hunting on Santa Rosa, as this year’s effort marks the third time he has proposed such legislation since 2004. Ironically, the Paralyzed Veterans of America toured the island earlier this summer and concluded that it was a less-than-desirable location for the kind of hunting preserve Hunter is advocating. As it stands now, deer and elk hunting is offered on the island by its former owners for a portion of the year, though the hunts are set to stop in 2011.