The care and custody of cultural artifacts and human remains by the military was the focus of a second site tour by some Guam lawmakers who visited the firing range complex on Northwest Filed and the new Marine Corps base under construction in Finegayan on Thursday.
“We got a good overview of the activity and the specific sites where artifacts and human remains were found,” said Sen. Mary Torres. “We have been able to put a place to what we’ve been hearing about which I think was very useful.”
Since October of last year, Joint Region Marianas has reported artifact discoveries at 14 sites and bones fragments recovered at 6 other locations. The artifacts and bone fragments have been removed from their original locations for further study and storage.
That remains a matter of concern for some senators.
“What we are asking for,” said Sen. Therese Terlaje, “is that when they find these significant historical sites, they leave them in place until they can determine whether they’re connected to the data that has been recovered.”
The site visit follows passage during the last legislative session of a joint resolution approved by 13 Guam lawmakers calling on governor Lou Leon Guerrero to pause data recovery at the firing range complex. Only senators Wil Castro and James Moylan voted against the resolution.
“I see now a balance of preserving our culture and also economic growth,” said Sen. Moylan following the site visit.
Joint Region Commander Rear Adm. John Menoni led the inspection tour.
“I think what we learned today, and I think this was news to some of the people on the trip, was that we’re always doing local pauses when we find something,” said Menoni. “If something is found, we stop work and evaluate it in conjunction with the SHPO and local archeologists, so there are local pauses going on every single day.”
However, Sen. Amanda Shelton said she still believes there should be a “pause” in construction on the firing range complex.
“Right now, yes,” said Shelton when asked if she still supports the resolution she voted for. “I think at this time the process that they showed us was sufficient, but if there is more that we can do with more collaboration with our SHPO, that would be helpful to us.”
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, who chairs the legislature’s buildup committee, thanked Rear Adm. Menoni and expressed the hope that “this accountability and transparency” continues, “but more importantly to make sure that the community of Guam knows what’s going on.”
Eight Guam senators went along on the visit. Senators Pedo Terlaje, Telo Taitague, Louise Muna, Joe San Agustin, Wil Castro, and Sabina Perez were not able to go. The media was not invited.
The first tour conducted for Guam lawmakers occurred in June when some senators visited the firing range complex to inspect the care the University of Guam and the military have been providing to an endangered cerentus nelsonii tree, which is believed to be the only known mature specimen on Guam.
It was discovered more than 18 years ago and is located in an area near the construction of one of the five firing ranges being built for the Marines on Northwest Field. ##
NEWS RELEASE – from Speaker Barnes
35TH GUAM LEGISLATURE TOURS CONSTRUCTION SITES OF THE FUTURE MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BLAZ AND VISITS CULTURAL REMNANTS
Hagatna, Guam – Members of the 35th Guam Legislature and the Guam Buildup Office took a tour of the Live Fire Training Range Complex today. Speaker Tina Rose Muna Barnes, the oversight chairwoman on the Committee on the Guam Buildup had organized this site visit in response to a request from her colleague, Senator Therese M. Terlaje.
“This visit brought to perspective the importance of our role as a local government,” stated the Speaker. “It is apparent that our local government has some shortcomings when it comes to our responsibilities, and I will continue this dialogue and further engage other stakeholders,” added Muña Barnes.
The Speaker would like to thank Rear Admiral John Menoni for the opportunity. In a courtesy introductory meeting held in August, the Speaker and the Rear Admiral committed to maintaining open dialogue between the Department of Defense and the Oversight Chairwoman with regards to the Guam Military Buildup.
Over the last several months, the Committee on the Guam Buildup and the Leon Guerrero Tenorio Administration have held numerous meetings to understand the needs of our local regulatory and enforcement agencies with regards to the Buildup.
“As we prepare for the first Civilian Military Coordination Council (CMCC) meeting in November, I am grateful that the Rear Admiral was able to provide me with a better understanding of where we are at, and where we need to be” concluded Speaker Muña Barnes.
“I personally want to have transparent, fact-based discussions with the leaders of Guam so they can make informed decisions, and this visit was a prime example of that cooperation,” said Rear Adm. John Menoni, Joint Region Marianas commander.
“We thank them for their time today and look forward to our lasting partnership with Guam’s elected officials, and will continue to work for the protection of U.S. citizens and our great nation of America.”
Today, in addition to touring the site of the Live Fire Training Range Complex, the group also toured the site of the future Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, and were able to see various cultural discoveries that have been made at each site.
There have been 16 cultural sites discovered on J001-B and P-75 since December, and recently there have been six discoveries of human bone fragments on P-715. A list of cultural discoveries accompanies this release.