The National Park Service (NPS) purchased Santa Rosa Island from private landowners Vail & Vickers in 1986. Immediately following the purchase, NPS personnel stated that they and the former landowners were negotiating a 5- to 10-year phaseout of cattle ranching and hunting of introduced deer and elk. Later, NPS staff stated that the former landowners had a 25-year right to presale land uses. This unsubstantiated “right” became the justification for the NPS issuing a series of permits that continued the operations of the former landowner. Over time, questions arose regarding the environmental impacts of the cattle, deer, and elk on Santa Rosa Island's natural and archeological resources and the restricted public use of the island. Approximately 10 years after purchasing the island, the National Park Service was sued by an environmental group. Vail & Vickers countersued. The litigation brought to light the written documents associated with the purchase of the island. The court cases were settled through a voluntary agreement which directed a rapid end to grazing of cattle and a phased reduction of deer and elk. This paper examines the written documents from 1979 to 1987, which is the period contemporaneous to the establishment of Channel Islands National Park, the sale of Santa Rosa Island, and the initiation of island management by the National Park Service. Later documents and statements will be compared to the contemporaneous documents to better understand the controversies, public perceptions, and lawsuits.
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