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Long-Range Management Plan Proposed
updated: Dec 02, 2013, 1:25 PM

By Nick Tonkin

Earlier this year I was hiking on Santa Rosa Island in the Channel Islands National Park. Two friends and I were enjoying a spectacular Spring day; blue skies, warm sunshine, the rolling hills and open, unspoiled vistas, the peace, quiet, and solitude. Our destination was Lobo Canyon, a magical hiking trail now, but for thousands of years home to the Chumash native people, who found refuge from the island's harsh winds in the canyon's lush, protected interior. As we walked, in silence, I pondered the fact that I was following in the footsteps of the oldest humans of which evidence has been found in North America. Thirteen thousand years had passed since "Arlington Springs Woman" walked the same path we trod, and the existential meditation the scene inspired was weighty, indeed.

Suddenly the quiet was shattered by the rumble of a motor in low gear. We turned to see a white SUV, the two front seats occupied by smartly dressed young men wearing collared shirts emblazoned with "Channel Islands Aviation." It was odd, because the SUV was a National Park vehicle. The four passengers in the back, who had arrived on the island by air, were being ferried down to the same trailhead we were approaching. I wiped my brow as we chatted for a minute, then stepped aside to allow the Suburban to proceed.

Let me tell you, there is nothing like having to jump out of the way of an SUV full of affluent tourists who have flown in, and have only an hour to ‘do' the park, to ruin your wilderness experience. Really, you couldn't invent a caricature more perfect to decry the commercialization of a sacred space like Santa Rosa Island, yet that will be the future if the National Park Service has its way.

In the draft long-range management plan for Channel Islands National Park just released by the NPS, two of the three alternatives proposed, including the "NPS preferred alternative," call for establishment of a vehicular transportation concession on Santa Rosa Island. But that's not all. The NPS bureaucrats, always on the hunt for new revenue streams to fatten their own budgets, also plan to build hotel accommodation at Bechers Bay, using both the historic Vail & Vickers ranch buildings and new buildings to be constructed, as well as "food service." While most of the island would be designated as officially protected wilderness, "corridors" would remain open to vehicle traffic throughout, enabling, among other examples given in the document, excursions to Lobo Canyon, and transportation to a permanent campsite on the south side, to be constructed.

It is already possible to hike Lobo Canyon. It is already possible to camp on the south beaches of the island, arriving on foot or by kayak. You just have to be willing to invest the time and the energy. No one would countenance a "corridor" through, say, the Ansel Adams Wilderness, so that the well-heeled and busy could be whisked in SUVs up to the alpine meadows for a photo op. Yet that is exactly what the Park Service is proposing to do with the Channel Islands. Why here?

The Park Service will tell you that it is to increase access, but access is as easy as buying a ticket on the ferries that already operate. The truth is that Channel Islands National Park is the least visited park in the country, and the local, district and regional bureaucrats responsible for it are trying to boost numbers in order to get a bigger share of the federal parks budget. Let's be clear: the park gets fewer visitors than others because it consists of rugged, undeveloped offshore islands that are hard to get to and don't offer any amenities. For those who do visit there, that is precisely the appeal of the place. People who want lodging, food service, SUV transportation and other amenities already have a Southern California option: Catalina. The northern Channel Islands are a rare, quiet oasis of solitude and timeless beauty, available today for those who want to be there. Let's keep it that way!

Alternative #1 under the draft plan would keep the islands' management plan as it is, emphasizing resource conservation and habitat restoration, with boat and airplane transportation access, as well as extensive camping opportunities. Please support this option, see what the NPS is planning, and make your opinion heard at the two public open houses scheduled on the plan, in Ventura, at the Park Visitor Center at 6:00 pm on Tuesday Dec 3, and in Santa Barbara, in the Central Library's Faulkner Gallery at 6:00 pm on Dec 4. Details about the hearings, as well as the plan itself, are available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/chis where you can submit comments through Jan 9, 2014.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 473659 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 01:49 PM

Your concerns are right on the mark - isn't it ironic that the cattle operation was driven off the island to "save'' it, and now just a few years later the "saviors" want to turn it into 'Jurassic Park' without the dinosaurs?


 COMMENT 473665 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 02:07 PM

I like more access. More campgrounds would be great! People need to see what we have so we can protect it. The oil rigs are probably a bigger threat to the Channel Islands than an SUV. Get rid of those and its all good =)


 COMMENT 473666 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 02:11 PM

Agree. Everyone in SB NEEDS to go to the meeting on the 4th. Alternative #1 is the ONLY feasible alternative in the proposed plan.

The scary part, while commenting online, the NPS Management Plan headquarters is based out of Colorado. I truly hope a NPS desk job economist who has labeled Alt. #3 the “preferred plan” does not destroy this National Treasure for future generations. Otherwise, it will be Jeep Tours, Food Service, Shopping…ect.


 COMMENT 473678 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 02:32 PM

As if the Federal Govt gives a damn about what the locals want...

This is exactly the kind of thing that a long term congressperson can help manage better than anyone. We need to get Capps involved. Without her or another powerful Federal official, the islands are doomed.

Does anyone remember the proposed 'private hunting island' by SD congressman Duncan Hunter a few years back? Capps, among others, stepped in to stop that absurdly stupid idea.

I also think TC Boyle would be interested in the outcome of this as his last novel 'When the Killing's Done' was all about the islands.


 COMMENT 473708 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 04:26 PM

Come to the Channel Islands National Park OPEN HOUSE on Wed. Dec.4 at the Faulkner Gallery, SB Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu St. from 5:30 - 8:30pm.


 COMMENT 473754 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 06:52 PM

Did Nick walk to Santa Rosa? Why is arriving by diesel boat more noble than arriving by air? I sense reverse snobbery.


 COMMENT 473764 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 07:20 PM

There are no "northern Channel Islands". The island chain runs east and west.


 COMMENT 473777P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 08:01 PM

No more noble to arrive by diesel boat or not by diesel boat but SUVs on land are absolutely not necessary. There are trails and it is not mounainous.

The NPS took huge efforts to remove non-native animals, the pigs on Santa Cruz; it is strange that they would allow tourist-toting SUVs.

The islands should be kept as wild as wild can be, with limited camping.


 COMMENT 473794P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-02 10:14 PM

Bring it on. Why not build some motorhome parks? There could be ferries.


 COMMENT 473806P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-03 12:35 AM

What is the correct time at the library? Also - write Lois Capps and tell her your position on this!


 COMMENT 473813 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-03 08:01 AM

All part of the plan to make the parks self sustaining. SUVs, ATVs, and drones excursions. Helicopter flights every 15 minutes. You ain't seen nothing yet.


 COMMENT 473831 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-03 08:37 AM

The park service is so out of it on this one. They want to get rid of honey bees because they aren't indigenous to the islands but want hotel amenities and SUVs. Whoa


 COMMENT 473846 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-03 09:24 AM

The announcement I have from the NPS is 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Wednesday.


 COMMENT 473946P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-03 02:23 PM

This is the oldest argument around regarding national parks and wilderness. If you don't make it somewhat accessible to a fairly large group of people, people won't support the budgets necessary to maintain national parks. If you make it too accessible, you lose much of the wilderness appeal. The point is always to balance the competing interests. Please try to keep an open mind, and don't assume that only young, strong, fit people who are willing to hike or backpack are those who deserve to enjoy our national parks. Not everyone who uses more amenities is rich; many are elderly, or have physical challenges they must consider (like wheelchairs.) Who are we do decide that the old or disabled don't "deserve" to enjoy the parks in their own way too? You always have to have enough access to make sure you get sufficient funding to remain viable.


 COMMENT 473992 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-03 04:56 PM

Mr. Tonkin. Thank you for your posting. I agree with you 100%. The time now is 4:55pm, Tuesday, and I sent a personal email to Congresswoman Capps, re: The Channel Islands.

In my email, I urged her to keep the NPS in check and to see to it that whatever is done, is done with minimal impact on the land and animals. I asked her to read your posting here, as I think you said it best.

Thanks again.


 COMMENT 474063 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-03 08:40 PM

@946P, re accessibility: the late Garrett Hardin, inspiring professor at UCSB, always said he would much rather know that a special place like Yosemite was preserved in a relatively natural state even if it meant that he, confined to a wheelchair, would be unable to go there in person. He said that not every place needs to be completely accessible to everyone. I think he would agree that the Channel Islands are such a place. No to more development!

@764: The Northern Channel Islands are San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa. The Southern Channel Islands are Santa Barbara, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina and San Clemente.


 COMMENT 474092 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-04 02:29 AM

That not every special place should necessarily be accessible is exactly what I was going to say - didn't do so because I'm tired of being attacked for being "insensitive''.

BTW, if funding for maintenance were really an issue, I would rather have the cattle operation stay on the island in a limited capacity (or even private hunting) than see it turned into some glitzy showbiz place like Busch Gardens.


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