The Navy has declined the government of Guam’s request for a pause in construction activities related to the military’s proposed live-fire training range.
GovGuam had asked for a pause until December 2019 when the genetic study of the rare Serianthes nelsonii tree is expected to be final.
In a letter sent to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and senators of the 35th Guam Legislature, Rear Admiral Shoshana Chatfield said she shares GovGuam’s concern for the mature Serianthes nelsonii tree.
But she also reiterated that the military has already implemented various measures to preserve and propagate the rare tree.
“Therefore, I respectfully submit that there is no concern about the timing of the future construction of the Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range,” Chatfield said.
She added: “I apologize that during our recent tour together to visit the tree at Andersen Air Force Base’s Northwest Field, we did not sufficiently explain the permanent protective measures and additional research regarding the tree.”
In its 2016 5-Year Recovery Plan Review, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recommended using S. nelsonii from Rota to increase Guam’s population and encourage genetic mixing.
But while it is important to better understand the genetic variances between Guam and Rota trees, the Admiral said this information will not change the endangered status of the species.
“Regardless of the research findings, the Serianthes nelsonii adult tree and outplanted seedlings remain fully protected with protective measures in place,” Chatfield said.
During the public hearing on Resolution 164-35, which calls for a pause on all activities related to the Live Fire Training Range Complex at Northwest Field, Chatfield provided written testimony stating that there is a need for the firing range proposed by the Navy because current ranges do not meet qualifications standards for the Marine Corps.
“The Marine Corps must be ready for any contingency, whether during peacetime or conflict. They must be always prepared to use the full array of small arms weaponry, which includes pistols, rifles and machine guns among others. This unique aspect of a Marine requires that he or she train and qualify on ranges that are more complex and have different configurations than other branches of the Armed Forces,” Chatfield said.
She added that the current ranges in use by the Navy, Army, Air Force and civilian law enforcement are not configured for Marines to properly qualify and be certified in the use of their weapons.
“Existing ranges are too small for the operational training required for the Marines that will come to Guam. Expansion of existing ranges would have constrained both civilian and military land use or air traffic to an unacceptable degree as these activities occur or have been accustomed to the smaller size and less frequent activation of existing buffer areas,” Chatfield said.