GUAM BIOLOGISTS FRET OVER ACCESS TO BASE HABITAT

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 10) - Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Guam biologists say they no longer can get on and off the Navy base -- as they had for more than 30 years prior – to properly manage the resources that belong to island residents, not Uncle Sam.

The new restrictions prevent effective management of such natural resources as endangered birds, wild pigs and deer, said Gerry Davis, chief of Aquatics and Wildlife Resources for the Guam Department of Agriculture.

That resource management, among many benefits, helps keep soil from eroding into Fena Lake and shutting down or reducing productivity at the water plant that feeds both the military and the civilian sectors.

And that access is required by law, he said.

"We are more than willing to jump through hoops for national security," Davis said. "But it doesn't seem that an access agreement with us jeopardizes national security."

Navy spokeswoman Lt. Thurraya Kent said biologists are able to get on base and manage resources as long as they follow protocol. She said visiting biologists now present IDs at the gate and are escorted on and off the base.

"Access to the base is controlled in order to ensure the safety of our forces," Kent said, adding that "many things have changed since Sept. 11 and access may be more controlled now. The Navy is doing what is necessary to protect our forces in our installation."

Davis said the higher level of security was understandable immediately following the terrorists attacks on America that occurred Sept. 11, 2001.

But nothing, he said, has been done since to establish an agreement that grants biologists the access they need to manage the resource.

"Attempts to resolve this issue through normal contacts remains unsuccessful, as the thinking now appears to have shifted ... to restrict (department) access," said a November letter from then-acting department director Wilfred Aflague. That letter was obtained this week by the Pacific Daily News.

Kent said an agreement was drafted specifically to address Agriculture's concerns last year, but nothing has developed since.

In late November, former Gov. Carl Gutierrez sent a letter to Rear Adm. Patrick Dunne, Commander of Naval Forces Marianas, asking for a meeting to resolve the dispute over access. No meeting was arranged.

Current Agriculture acting director Rufo Lujan said he will also pursue a meeting with top Navy officials.

Lujan said both Guam's Organic Act and federal law require the Navy to permit the territory to manage the resource. The Navy controls access, but Guam owns and manages the natural resources.

The lack of access "fails to recognize Guam's management authority for these resources," reads Aflague's letter. His letter names several areas as examples in which limited access is stifling the department's work: Responding to oil spills, conducting wildlife surveys and enforcing local natural resources laws.

Davis said in contrast, the Air Force has given full access to its base and has gone beyond its requirement to support the department's natural resource management programs, including successful endangered bird programs. This month, more than 40 endangered Guam rails were released on that base.

Aflague's letter goes on to recommend "the government of Guam petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revoke any existing permits or deny any new permits to complete work by the Navy on Guam until ... the access issue is resolved."

February 10, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment