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By Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (June 7, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---The Navy will be allowed to resume bombing and live-fire exercises on a northern Mariana island.

The District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals granted a motion yesterday, filed by Department of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for a permanent stay of an injunction that banned military bombing exercises at Farallon de Medinilla (FDM).

The ruling came a day after U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the Navy to cease bombing exercises on the tiny island.

Sullivan ordered a 30-day ban for military exercises on Farallon de Medinilla in April, but the same appellate court issued a stay of the injunction last month.

Farallon de Medinilla, a 206-acre island about 45 miles north of Saipan, is the military's only live-fire training location in the western Pacific, according to Pacific Daily News files.

The island has been used for bombing exercises for at least 25 years and brings about $10 million in annual revenues to Guam and $5 million to Saipan, according to the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

Local business officials have stated concerns that ending FDM bombing could mean a reduction of military presence on Guam, damaging local economies in the future.

Change in law

Delegate Robert Underwood, who supports using the island as a bombing range, said yesterday a change in law is needed to permanently resolve the FDM issue, as "it seems to be changing day to day."

"The original plaintiff can still file a motion, so that's why it is important we resolve this through legislation because of the uncertainty surrounding the issue," he said.

Underwood said the case could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

He said he would continue to pursue a change in federal law to let the military use the island without violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and if the measure becomes law, it would take effect Oct. 1.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which said the exercises kill and harm special species of migratory birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Navy officials have maintained the bombing is located away from areas populated by birds.

Underwood said yesterday the issue is not about saving endangered species, noting the lawsuit does not cite violations of the Endangered Species Act.

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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