“When the Killing Is Done” – T.C. Boyle’s Take on the Channel Islands

By Gabriele Mezger-Lashly

Many residents of Ventura County have never been to the Channel Islands National Park even though it lies literally in their front yard, only a short distance off the coast. The islands are mostly known as the setting of “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” a novel read by millions of California elementary students about a Chumash girl who was left behind on San Nicholas Island and survived there in solitude for sixteen years. T.C. Boyle’s recent novel When the Killing Is Done tells a compelling and fascinating story involving the National Park Service’s attempts to restore the ecological balance of the islands.

Santa Cruz Island, four times the size of Manhattan and 20 miles west of the Ventura coastline, the last link in the five-island chain that Congress designated as a national park in 1980, is not only a natural marvel, but a lawyer’s dream come true. Behind this island lies a tangled history of human dispute and litigation. Real estate battles, greed, and family infighting resulted in numerous legal actions.

The National Park Service’s efforts to protect native plants and animals – by eliminating rats on Anacapa and pigs on Santa Cruz – sparked a public debate. It caused a Santa Barbara County businessman to sue the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy seeking to halt their $7-million feral pig eradication program, which killed thousands of wild pigs on Santa Cruz Island. The lawsuit can only be described “as too little too late.” In 2008, the Ninth Circuit dismissed the action as moot because the pig eradication program had been completed and no feral pigs were left on the island. Feldman v. Bomar, 518 F.3d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 2008).

Gabriele Mezger-Lashly ~ is a State Bar certified specialist in appellate law. She handles law and motion and appeals for Slaughter & Reagan LLP in Ventura.

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