Guam – Controversy is already brewing over HR 4402 a measure introduced by Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo that would allow DOD to establish a Surface Danger Zone over the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge for their proposed marine firing range complex on Northwest field.
Senator Ben Pangelinan is disappointed that the Congresswoman didn’t inform any of Guam’s local lawmakers about this bill that could in effect circumvent the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and restrict public access to Ritidian.
Senator Ben Pangelinan is calling HR 4402 which was introduced by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo a surprise attack on the people of Guam. “What it does is basically take out the recovery habitat that was necessary for the reintroduction of endangered species here on Guam and it places it now at the discretion of the secretary of the Navy,” said Senator Pangelinan.
The Ritidian Wildlife Refuge contains numerous native plants and has one of the most pristine beaches on Guam. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife have plans to reintroduce the Ko’ko and other native birds here which is why they recently built a fence around the refuge in hopes of creating a zone that is free of the brown tree snake. There are ancient caves and ancient latte sites here as well.
Senator Pangelinan is concerned that HR 4402 paves the way for DOD to build their firing range complex on the plateau above the Wildlife Refuge. Congresswoman Bordallo however has argued that HR 4402 is merely a placeholder bill.”In order to ensure that all issues especially the SDZ questions are fully considered the bill will allow congress to receive the view of the Navy the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and our community,” said Congresswoman Bordallo on the K57 Breakfast Show with Ray Gibson.
“If it is, then it should be the other way around. It should be a placeholder bill that says you can’t access the Wildlife Refuge until you go through the NEPA process instead of saying you can circumvent the NEPA process the critical habitat process and put in the surface danger zone it should be the other way around,” said Senator Pangelinan.
“I also want to stress that the Secretary of Defense in written certification has stated very clearly to congress that there must be a live fire training range on Guam in order to meet the readiness and military requirements for the marines. Without this training range the buildup here on Guam will be jeopardized and we may not see the relocation of marines at all,” said the Congresswoman.
The Congresswoman says she will include language in the DNAA to require the Secretary of the Interior to look for alternative locations for the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge. She also hopes to find a resolution for the original landowners at Ritidian. She says the community of Guam must make compromises or else accept that the military buildup won’t happen. “Our community has a difficult decision to make on this issue. The marines absolutely need to have a live fire training range on Guam in order for the buildup to move forward,” said Congresswoman Bordallo.
“She’s taken all of the alternatives that’s been placed in the DEIS and says never mind any of that you can do this one which is to destroy the critical wildlife habitat. Threaten the access to the people of Guam’s properties there and also basically forever dash the hopes that those properties will be returned those properties were declared excess at one time and could’ve been returned to the people of Guam and I think that we need to continue to work towards that goal but this proposal under this legislation kind of just kills that,” said Senator Pangelinan.
The hearing on HR 4402 is tomorrow but Senator Pangelinan says testimony can be given on the bill up to ten days after the hearing and he encourages everyone concerned to submit testimony. Pangelinan says his office will help facilitate these testimonies.