WASHINGTON – The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee abandoned — for now — a plan to give the military recreational use of a national park island off California after senators warned him Friday that the provision could trip up a major defense bill.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., instead agreed to a suggestion by House Democrats to pursue the idea as stand-alone legislation after Congress reconvenes next year. His concession cleared a final glitch for House and Senate negotiators putting the finishing touches on a defense policy bill that lawmakers want to use to ban cruel treatment of terrorism detainees.
Hunter wanted to turn 53,000-acre Santa Rosa Island, part of Channel Islands National Park 40 miles off Santa Barbara, into a recreation destination for disabled veterans and others. His proposal would have allowed hunting of nonnative elk and deer on the island to continue indefinitely, even though a court-ordered settlement calls for it to end in 2011.
Environmentalists and Democrats say the animals are harming the island's native species and also were concerned that Hunter's plan could have kept the public out.
At a meeting Friday, Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., and the committee's top Democrat, Carl Levin, D-Mich., told Hunter that the Santa Rosa idea would run into procedural objections in the Senate that could stall the entire bill.