Military says range design already protects endangered tree

Senators from the 35th Guam Legislature view the endangered Serianthes nelsonii tree while receiving a brief from Dr. Jim McConnell, University of Guam, Guam Plant Extinction Prevention Program, during a site visit at Northwest Field in Dededo July 12.

The Navy said its livefire training range design already protects the endangered Serianthes nelsonii tree on Northwest Field, which has been a focal point of opposition to the military’s construction activities in the area.

Outgoing Joint Region Marianas commander Shoshana Chatfield informed a group of senators visiting the site that military construction has already been nudged away from the endangered tree to help ensure its preservation.

Previously, the admiral had taken a hard stance on the governor’s request for a pause on military construction around the endangered tree, saying that the military has already implemented various measures to preserve and propagate the rare tree.

But during the senators’ visit last Friday she told the lawmakers that military construction plans have been altered slightly to move construction activities away from the endangered tree.

“I believe our mutual objective has been met by the change in the project design to permanently relocate the range sufficiently away from the tree, its saplings and is in compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife approved forest buffer zone,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield, at the request of Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, led the group of lawmakers on an informative tour that culminated in a visit to the endangered Serianthes nelsonii tree.

“We share the concerns and interest of our island community in respectful and lawful management of our limited cultural and natural resources on the island,” said Chatfield. “Our actions continue to demonstrate that we have followed Federal Law throughout the course of our efforts, complied with all provisions that were developed to ensure preservation of Guam’s rich cultural and natural resources, and maintained open and transparent dialogue with the community.”

During the tour, it was also clarified that the scheduled start of construction for the Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range would in the spring of 2020.

Al Borja, environmental director for Marine Corps Activity Guam and the future Marine Corps Base, said the conservation efforts being taken. are a tremendous win for the entire island of Guam. He said they investing in propagating growth of endangered plant species in this area of the island, which includes but is not limited to, the Serianthes nelsonii tree and its species.

“The Navy and Marine Corps are engaged in open and transparent dialogue with local leaders throughout this process, and are committed to close collaboration with the government of Guam and regulatory partners in environmental and construction activities for the new Marine Corps Base,” Chatfield said.

Reacting to the military’s revised construction plan, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said: “This shows that the military is listening to our concerns.”

“I believe the admiral is very authentic and sincere in terms of cultural preservation on Guam. I think they’re willing to discuss more the issues,” the governor said during the Patti Arroyo show on NewsTalk K-57.

The governor added that she will again be visiting the military construction sites together with new SHPO Patrick Lujan.