Channel Islands National Park

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Staff at Channel Islands National Park, 1981

Channel Islands National Park was created on March 5, 1980 when President Carter signed Public Law 96-199, which calls for the protection of

the nationally significant natural, scenic, wildlife, marine, ecological, archaeological, cultural, and scientific values of the Channel Islands in the State of California.

Five of the eight California Channel Islands fall within park boundaries: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara islands. Of these, the western portion of Santa Cruz Island remains privately owned by The Nature Conservancy as an in holding within the boundaries of the park, and the eastern 6200 acres are owned by Channel Islands National Park. National Park jurisdiction includes rocks, islets, submerged lands and water within one nautical mile of each island. Permanent park headquarters are located at 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, CA 93001. The law upgraded the existing Channel Islands National Monument status of Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands, and added three other islands.

Channel Islands National Park superintendents:

  • William H. Ehorn, March 1980-July 1989
Oral History Interview with Bill Ehorn Pdficon small 2.gif
  • Russell E. Galipeau, Jr., January 2003-May 31, 2018
Oral History Interview with Russell Galipeau Pdficon small 2.gif
  • Ethan McKinley July 2018-


Channel Islands National Park Raid on the East End of Santa Cruz Island, January 14, 1997



In the News~

September 2, 1915 [SBMP]: “Protection for island life is sought: Charles E. Davis enlists assistance here in new campaign. Charles E. Davis of Long Beach is in the city in the effort to get the Chamber of Commerce and individual citizens interested in his propaganda looking to new measures for protection of sea animals and birds whose habitat is the islands of this coast…”


September 3, 1915 [SBMP]: “Protection of wildlife is a problem. William Leon Dawson discusses suggestion made for Channel Islands… William Leon Dawson, the ‘Bird Man’ of Santa Barbara who may be considered as competent authority on this matter can be found, writes as follows: …’Before we invoke the aid of so powerful a person as Uncle Sam, we must bethink ourselves of what his administration involves. Experience has proven him to be a very jealous, and somewhat unreasonable, as well as very efficient guardian of wild things… Something ought to be done, of course. But, are we ready to invoke the aid of this very powerful, yet no less clumsy giant, federal control? Prepare then to forgo the pleasure of ever setting foot upon any island brought thus under federal jurisdiction, save by express permission and in company with a government warden…”


September 4, 1915 [SBMP]: “That David Starr Jordan and the federal authorities have become interested in the desirability for the protective measures for the channel seal, for the sea birds and for the food fishes of these waters is an encouraging sigh; and the proposition that there should be a separate department in California for the supervision of ocean fisheries is eminently reasonable and destined to have the support of all thinking people. The seals of Santa Barbara are being exterminated. There are fewer sea birds than there were. Crawfish and abalone are each season more scarce. Food fish are higher in price. There is urgent need for action of a decisive and effective character, and agitation to that end is worthy of our interest and support.”


September 28, 1915 [SBMP]: “The federal government has already taken notice of the movement for the creation of a game reserve on the Santa Barbara Islands. This has come about through the activities of David Starr Jordan and Charles E. Davis. The latter, who resides at Long Beach, has received a letter from C. M. Bruce, acting commissioner of the Department of the Interior General Land Office, in which progress is reported thus: Dr. David Starr Jordan of Stanford University has addressed a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, inclosing herewith a carbon copy of your letter addressed to him of date August 16, relative to the creation of a government reservation of the Santa Barbara islands off the southwest coast of California for the protection of native birds and animals. An examination of the records of this office shows that of the islands referred to, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz,, and Santa Catalina, the three largest of the group, are in private ownership, having been disposed of under some early Spanish or Mexican land grant. This leaves five islands… These five, however, are embraced in lighthouse reservations under the control of the Department of Commerce… With Washington authorities taking such keen interest in the proposal, it is not improbably that something will come out of it…”


September 4, 1928 [ODC]: “Frederick Law Olmstead of Boston, leading authority in the United States on parks, will make an inspection of Santa Cruz Island from an airplane next Friday, in company with George A. Batchelder and Earle Ovington of Santa Barbara… They will secure a four-passenger hydroplane from the Western Air Express—one of the ‘flying boats’ plying between Wilmington and Avalon—and, starting at 10 o’clock next Friday morning from Wilmington, will fly with their distinguished guest and his guest, Charles A. Cheney, who made the city plan for Santa Barbara, first to Catalina and over the island itself, then to Santa Cruz Island where, flying at a height of 500 feet, every point will be inspected… Mr. Batchelder spent two days on the island some months ago with Stephen Mather, head of the National Park system of the United States, when Mr. Mather praised the beauties of the plans and said it would make one of the most wonderful parks in the country.”


September 10, 1928 [ODC]: “A hydroplane inspection of Santa Cruz Island was made Friday by Frederick Law Olmstead, famous landscape authority selected by the State of California to pass upon the desirability of the various park sites proposed by the different localities as desirable to be included in the purchases to be made from the proposed bond issue of $6,000,000 to be voted on at the coming election. The trip was a success, and Mr. Olmstead expressed himself afterward as having his previous favorable impression strengthened by the thoroughness of the very novel method of inspecting the property from the air… The party… turned south, skirting the north side of Santa Cruz, passing the breakwater quarry, which has not disfigured the landscape, and tobogganed into Pelican Bay, where they found but one yacht and the tug from the quarry with 75 gallons of Richfield aviation gasoline, which was poured into the hydroplane’s nearly empty tanks. After eating lunch, the tug towed the hydroplane out of the bay at 2:45, and the party took off into the air after a few a few hard bumps on the choppy sea that made the plane boom like a huge bass drum…”


January 31, 1933 [SBNP]: “Channel Islands Not Considered For Parks. That Congress at the present session will not act upon the proposal by the U.S. Lighthouse Service that San Miguel and Anacapa islands by taken over by the National Park Service as national parks, was announced in Washington, D.C., today by Horace M. Albright of the national Park service...”


August 5, 1970 [LAT]: “Cranston urges U.S. to buy Channel Islands. Possible purchase of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands for a national park off the Southland coast would be studied under a bill proposed by Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.). He proposed buying the two privately owned islands and including them in a Channel Islands National Park along with the government-owned Santa Barbara, San Miguel and Anacapa islands. Cranston said he fears the two privately owned islands will "drift into commercial and residential development" if action is not taken quickly.”


June 23, 1992 [VCS]: “$8 million approved for purchasing land. Parcel is on Santa Cruz Island. A request for $8 million to acquire part of the last remaining privately owned parcel of land on Santa Cruz Island was approved by a House Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Bob Lagomarsino said Monday. The 6,200-acre piece of land, on the eastern end of the island, is owned by the Gherini family of Santa Barbara. One-quarter of the property was purchased from the family in 1990 for $4 million, and the $8 million requested would go toward purchasing two more quarters. Money for the final quarter of land will be sought next year, said Steve Hodapp, who works on Lagomarsino's parks and public lands subcommittee. Mack Shaver, superintendent for Channel Islands National Park, said the goal is to put the National Park's main visitor's center on the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island, and relieve pressure from Anacapa Island. “These funds are urgently needed to protect Anacapa from overuse while allowing visitors to more fully experience the unique flora and fauna of the islands,” Lagomarsino said. Anacapa is the smallest of the Channel Islands at about 2,040 acres, and is also the nearest to the mainland at 11 miles offshore. Santa Cruz Island covers 62,000 acres and is the next closest, about 14 miles offshore. “You can get yourself lost on Santa Cruz,” Shaver said. “You can forget you're on an island.” Shaver said that after the remaining land is purchased, officials intend to build a small pier on the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island, near the adobe Scorpion Ranch. a campground is also in the plans. A privately owned business — Santa Cruz Island Adventures — now flies visitors into Santa Cruz for hunting, hiking, kayaking and camping, Shaver said. Feral sheep are the most popular game sought by hunters, he said. The $8 million was the second largest amount approved by the subcommittee for land acquisition anywhere in the United States, Hodapp said. “We feel pretty positive about this,” he said. “We would have liked to have seen all $12 million, but in reality that was just not possible.” The full House Appropriations Committee will take up the funding request on Monday. Hodapp said it could go before the House in the first week of July, then go to the Senate for approval.”


April 25, 1993 [LAT]: “Little-known Channel Islands National Park Seeks more Visibility and Visitors. Thirteen years after Channel Islands National Park was established off the Ventura coast, park officials are beginning to admit that it has an identity problem—few people know anything about it. This summer, National Park Service plans to survey park visitors to help decide how best to raise the pristine, five-island chain from its ranking near the bottom of a list of least-visited parks in all of California. Despite its rugged campsites and ragged cliffs, despite the attraction of 10,000 seals breeding on its cobbled shores and lush, ocher kelp forests thriving in the crystal-blue ocean around it, Channel Islands National Park has fewer visitors than any other national park in California, save Devil's Postpile near Mammoth Lakes. Despite its proximity to one of the world's largest metropolitan hubs, fewer people visited Channel Islands National Park in all of 1992 than went to Joshua Tree National Monument in a single month—even though the desert preserve is nearly twice as far from Los Angeles. “The park service has never been very good about marketing,“ Park Supt. C. Mack Shaver conceded recently. “The park service only in the last five years has started talking about it above the table. Marketing always smacks of more 'Let's try to make money,' rather than, 'Let's try to sell what we've got.'“ The park service survey will ask Channel Islands visitors how they learned of the park and how the service could increase its visibility, he said. The park service also is working on a master management plan, which could include ways to make the park more accessible and enticing—to the public. And in the future, the service may even allow establishment of a small-scale bed-and-breakfast hotel on Santa Rosa Island or Santa Cruz Island to attract more visitors, Shaver said. Currently the park service offers only campsites for visitors. But that sort of plan will have to wait until the park service gains full control of its share of the islands he said...“


May 14, 1993 [VCS]: “Park brass aches for acres. Santa Cruz Island: Federal funds will be sought to buy the rest of it. Federal funds will be sought to buy the rest of Santa Cruz Island, National Park Service officials said Thursday, but not until they get a new estimate of the amount needed. For several years the park service has explored how to acquire the eastern 6,000 acres of the 62,000-acre island, part of Channel Islands National Park. Roughly 90 percent of the island is already owned by the Nature Conservancy, which manages it as wilderness under an agreement with the park service, 25 percent percent by members of the Gherini family. President Clinton's park budget released last month included no money to buy land in California, appearing to make a purchase of the Gherini interest impossible. “We were aware that the money wasn't in the budget, which we were told was because the park service was waiting for an updated appraisal,” said Christina Martin, a spokeswoman for Rep. Michael Huffington, said Thursday. The island is in the Santa Barbara Republican's congressional district. A parks appropriations bill is moving through the House of Representatives, Martin said, but Huffington will probably wait to seek the funds until a supplemental spending bill is put through later in 1993-94. That would allow time to prepare the appraisal. Carol Spears, public information officer for Channel Islands National Park, confirmed that a new appraisal is needed, and didn't know whether the park acquisition might be completed in 1993-94. “We're still negotiating with the property owners as to who is going to do that appraisal,” Spears said. “None of us can say what's going to happen, how soon the appraisal is going to be done or how soon money is going to be appropriated, so I'm not going to say that.”


October 2, 1996 [VCS]: “U.S. seeks to Evict Island's Last Private Owner. Property off the Ventura coast has been in Francis Gherini's family since 1869. But Congress is ready to act. Washington—Congress is poised to give the heave-ho to an Oxnard attorney who owns the last bit of private property in Channel Islands National Park. After negotiating with him for years without success, frustrated government officials have decided to force Francis Gherini to sell the 6,264-acre ranch he co-owns on the east end of Santa Cruz Island. The sale has been tacked onto a massive parks bill that is tied up in the Senate, one of the final pieces of legislative business before the body recesses for the year. The House already approved the omnibus parks legislation, which funds park projects throughout the country. Gherini, who defiantly challenged the government's purchase last week, turned conciliatory in recent days as the Senate nears passage of the measure. Although he has run out of options, Gherini says he will continue to press for the best price for his land. “I'm comfortable with this process but I'm not sure it was necessary to engage such a harsh remedy,” Gherini said... As Gherini fought the government over the years, the appraised value of the land dropped. The last appraisal, which Gherini disputes, put Gherini's share at less than $3 million...”


October 4, 1996 [LAT]: “Rest of Santa Cruz Island to Become Park. The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping parks bill that forces the last individual owner of land on Santa Cruz Island to sell his interest, thus completing the Channel Islands National Park. The measure, which awaits President Clinton's signature, could allow the federal government to take control of the 6,200-acre ranch within 90 days and to turn the island 20 miles off the Ventura coast into a publicly owned camping and hiking destination.”


November 20, 1996 [VCS]: “The closing of Santa Cruz. Bow hunters' dreams about to be dashed. Sheep Hunts: Island Adventures must clear off land by Feb. 10. The great bow hunt is almost over on Santa Cruz Island, where the National Park Service has given a private gaming operator 90 days to get off the island and take his 3,000 feral sheep with him. For Jaret Owens, who runs Island Adventures on the eastern tip, it's the end of his 12-year-old business. For the sheep that roam the rugged valleys, it's the end of the line. Owens says there is no cost-effective way to ship the wild animals off the island by Feb. 10, the day the park service takes full ownership of the eastern end, completing the Channel Islands National Park. Short of an extension that would allow hunters time to kill them for meat, Owens says, the sheep would have to be shot and left to rot. “We've got 1,000 baby lambs being born as we speak,” he said. “No sportsman wants to go out and slaughter them. They're the cutest things in the world.” Owens says he may opt to abandon the sheep on the island, leaving eradication up to the park service. If that happens, park officials say, they would have to come up with a plan and put it up for public review. “We're looking at all the various options,” said acting park Superintendent Tim Setnicka. “One is herding them up in some manner and shipping them off. The other is to destroy them.” Owens has asked for three extra months to invite bow and rifle hunters to come out with unlimited bag limits, saving the meat and giving the lambs time to grow older. But Setnicka said Owens must shut down all operations, including hunting and the bed-and-breakfast lodges, by Feb. 10. On that day, the Channel Islands National Park becomes sole owner of the eastern tip — a title officials have grudgingly shared with private landowner, Francis Gherini. Owens holds the lease on the property. Last week, the president signed legislation forcing Gherini to sell his 25 percent share of the land, about 6,500 acres. The land represents about 10 percent of Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands. The other 90 percent is owned by the Nature Conservancy. There's no love lost between the park service and Gherini, who have bickered over the years about how the island should be managed. Park officials say the commercial activities have trashed the eastern end, damaging water quality, historical and archaeological resources and native vegetation. In addition, taxpayers have been unfairly charged $25 to camp on the island and $15 to land there, Setnicka said. But Owens says park officials are jealous he has attracted so many visitors. The hard feelings continue to influence their decisions, he said. “I'm just disgusted with the federal government,” he said. “If I had a couple more months, I could get rid of the animals, make them money and save the meat. But it's politics. They just want me off.” As soon as their ownership becomes official, park officials plan to implement a 1985 general management plan. The plan calls for eliminating camping and landing fees; restoring Smugglers Adobe and Scorpion Ranch, which now house the bed-and-breakfast operations; building a floating dock; and maintaining the dirt airstrip at Smugglers Cove but shutting down the one near Scorpion Ranch. “You'll have a sense of what the ranch looked like in the late 1800s,” Setnicka said...”