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By Jose Cepeda III

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (March 6, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)-- Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands senate president Paul Manglona said he has concerns about naval bombing exercises on the island of Farallon de Medinilla.

Manglona, senate floor leader Pete Reyes and Navy Rear Adm. Tom Fellin flew over the island to observe the impact military bombings have on the environment of the uninhabited 200-acre island. The bombing practices began in 1976, Manglona said.

He said an obvious concern was the destruction of the island's habitat, which is home to 12 species of migratory birds. "There are a lot of birds on the island and we are in support of protecting that environment," Maglona said.

Navy spokeswoman Lt. Monica Richardson said the northern end of the island -- about 50 acres -- is designated a no-impact zone, which means the Navy cannot bomb that area. Much of the island's bird population lives in the no-impact zone.

Tina De Cruz, vice supervisor for CNMI's Department of Land and Natural Resource's division of fish and wildlife, said there are very few trees left in which birds can breed and said she is surprised there are still birds living on the island. "Total numbers haven't declined, but there is definitely an impact," De Cruz said. "The birds are continuing to breed, but they're taking a beating."

In December of 2000, a lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C., by the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, contending the bombing and shelling of the island violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

In 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to issue the Navy a permit to continue to bomb the island, but the Navy claimed the migratory bird act didn't apply to federal agencies, and continued the bombing.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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