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Santa Rosa Island is the second largest of the Channel Islands of California at 53,195 acres (215.27 km² or 83.118 sq mi). Defined by the United States Census Bureau as Block 3009, Block Group 3, Census Tract 29.10 of Santa Barbara County, California, the 2000 census showed an official population of 2 persons. It is part of Channel Islands National Park. Highest peak is Vail Peak, at 1,589 feet (484 m).
It is occupied by rolling hills, deep canyons, a coastal lagoon and beaches adorned with sand dunes and driftwood. The Chumash, a Native American people who lived in the Channel Islands at the time of European contact, called the driftwood wima because channel currents brought ashore logs from which they built tomols (plank canoes).
There are a variety of recreational activities to take part in on Santa Rosa Island, including kayaking, camping and hiking. A private boat charter company offers a number of trips to the island year round, and camping reservations can be made through Channel Islands National Park offices in Ventura, CA.
A year round charter flight service is available from Camarillo Airport for hikers and campers to Santa Rosa Island.
During the last ice age, the four northern Channel Islands, including Santa Rosa Island, were conjoined into Santa Rosae, a single island that was only five miles (8 km) off the coast. In 1960, archaeologists discovered the remains of 13,000 year-old Arlington Springs Man, among the oldest human remains in the Americas, on the island. Pygmy mammoths (Mammuthus exilis) have also been excavated there.
Governor Manuel Micheltorena made a Mexican land grant of the island of Santa Rosa to brothers José Antonio Carrillo and Carlos Antonio Carrillo in 1843. They gave the island to Carlos daughters, Manuela Carrillo de Jones and Francisca Carrillo de Thompson. Their husbands - John Coffin Jones (1796–1861) and Alpheus Basil Thompson (1795–1869) - entered into a partnership to manage the island. A claim was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852, but the grant was not patented to Manuela Carrillo de Jones and Francisca Carrillo de Thompson until 1871. The acrimonious Thompson-Jones partnership ended in 1859, and by 1862 T. Wallace More owned the whole island. The island was used as a sheep ranch during the late 19th century by the More family.
The More family sold the island to Walter L Vail and J.W. Vickers in 1902, forming the Vail & Vickers Company of Santa Barbara. The partnership used the island for cattle ranching and a private hunting reserve.
In the late 1970s Mobil Oil Corporation was granted exploration rights on the island. Both explosive and vibroseis exploration methods were used. Extensive surveys and geological maps were made at that time.
In 1980, Santa Rosa Island was included within Channel Islands National Park over the objections of Vail & Vickers, which then successfully lobbied to have the legislation stipulate that purchase of their land would be the highest priority of the Channel Islands National Park. Vail & Vickers sold the island in 1986 for the appraised value of nearly $30 million, which worked out to around $550 per acre. The sale agreement allowed continuation of the ranching and hunting operation for 3 months. Subsequently, the NPS issued a series of five-year renewable special use permits. A lawsuit by the National Parks Conservation Association in 1996 resulted in a court-approved settlement agreement which included removal of all cattle from the island and phased reduction by Vail & Vickers of the non-native deer and elk by 2011.
In 2006 U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced a provision into the annual defense policy bill that would allow disabled veterans to continue hunting elk on the island past 2011, without the consent of Vail & Vickers or the National Park Service. The provision stayed in the bill and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. This legislation was repealed by the next Congress as part of the FY 2007 Omnibus appropriations bill, also signed into law by President George W. Bush.
A variety of the Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana var. insularis) grows on the island. The population of this endangered species is estimated at approximately 1000 trees. The Island Oak (Quercus tomentella) is native to the island.
Flightless geese, giant mice and pygmy mammoths are extinct, while the island fox, spotted skunk, and munchkin dudleya (Dudleya gnoma) (one of the six endemic plant species on the island) still live there. The island is home to one of only three known populations of Hoffman's rockcress.
Its surrounding waters serve as an invaluable nursery for the sea life that feeds larger marine mammals and seabirds. Great White Sharks are fairly common in the northern Channel Islands (especially San Miguel and Santa Rosa) and feed on the abundant marine mammals
Santa Rosa Island has a temperate marine climate. In winter, frosts are almost unknown, and in summer cool fogs make heat waves rare. Most of the rain falls from November to March. Annual precipitation totals are about 15 inches on the coast to almost 20 inches on the higher slopes. Summers are dry except for fog drizzle.
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