On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution against a proposal by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, to prolong the hunting of non-native deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island. Hunter wants to establish the island, part of Channel Islands National Park, as a hunting ground for disabled veterans.

The federal government bought the island from a private owner in 1986 but, according to a judge’s ruling related to the sale, the former owners are permitted to conduct private trophy hunts which cost participants thousands of dollars. However, the ruling requires that the hunts come to an end in 2011, when the judged mandated that the herds of deer and elk be removed from the island.

Hunter’s plan, which would keep the animals on Santa Rosa and allow the hunts to continue indefinitely, passed the House in May as part of the annual defense appropriations bill. However the Senate version of the bill doesn’t include the Hunter’s Santa Rosa provision. The difference will have to be worked out in a conference committee later this year but the Senate’s resolution, sponsored by California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbra Boxer, signals the Senate’s unwillingness to budge on the issue.

Continued hunting on Santa Rosa has drawn criticism form the National Park Service, Democrats and environmentalists who contend that the hunting operation limits public access to the island and that the deer and elk have a negative impact on native animal and plant species.

Yesterday the LA Times broke the news that a group of disabled veterans – the very people Hunter has claimed the hunting preserve will benefit – have come out against the plan, pointing out that the terrain is too rugged and overgrown for people with disabilities to access.

Here’s what a leader from one of the disabled veterans groups had to say:

“There would be a real absence of independence out there,” said Douglas K. Vollmer, a spokesman for the 21,000-member Paralyzed Veterans of America. “The terrain would have to be significantly modified for a person in a wheelchair to get around. I doubt if anyone’s going to hunt from the landing strip.”

DANIEL STRUMPF

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