Senator wants relocation of live fire range to protect endangered fire tree

Guam's only mature Fire Tree, also known as the Serianthes nelsonii (From Sen. Sabina Perez's Office)

Guam – Senator Sabina Perez wants the military to reconsider relocating the planned construction of the Live Fire Training Range Complex at the Northwest Field on Anderson Air Force Base in attempts to keep the island’s lone adult Fire Tree out of harm’s way.

Considered to be the largest of the firing ranges planned for Guam, the senator echoes the concerns of many environmentalists who urge for the relocation of the training range.

Her request follows an executive tour of the area with Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and several of her fellow lawmakers; Rear Admiral Shoshana Chatfield of the Joint Region Marianas, and; Jim McConnell of the Guam Plant Extinction Prevention Program.

Leaders trekked to Guam’s only mature Fire Tree, also known as the Serianthes nelsonii at Andersen Air Force Base in Yigo on Monday, June 3.

The tree stands in an area along the fence line of the base.

The visit was made as an attempt to familiarize all stakeholders on the active efforts initiated by the Joint Region Marianas to protect and preserve the island’s natural resources, according to Chatfield,

“It is our hope that the steadfast efforts of our service members, Department of Defense civilians, contractors, and local partners to propagate this tree and its saplings, coupled with our broader efforts to protect native plant species, will prevent the degradation of Guam’s limestone forest,” Chatfield added.

Meanwhile, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero commends the rear admiral’s efforts saying, “I am very appreciative that the admiral took her time out to come along and organize this very informational tour. Our whole island is very much concerned about cultural preservation, and the military is very sensitive to that.”

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes said, “We need to bring everybody together, the military and civilian families, and our government stakeholders to the table and share the plan of what we need to do when the Marines come to Guam.”

In addition, Perez has penned a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, requesting a re-initiation of consultation. She also wants a pause in military construction until the genetic studies are completed not just for the Fire Tree, but also for several other threatened and endangered species.

These species include the Mariana fruit bat, the Mariana eight-spot butterfly, endemic tree snails, and the fadang or the Cycas micronesica.

“It is important to wait for this phylogenetic study to create a bigger picture of the genetic diversity in the region and the world,” Perez said.