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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 29) - The Marianas Public
Lands Authority Board of Directors has granted the U.S. Navy's request to use a
portion of an inactive volcano crater on the remote island of Anatahan for
personnel combat, search, and rescue training for one year.

Anatahan is a small island – six miles long and two miles wide
– in the Norther Marianas chain. Located 75 miles north of Saipan, the
mountainous island is believed to have fewer than 30 residents.

MPLA Commissioner Henry S. Hofschneider said the board made the
decision during its regular meeting last Thursday following an assurance that
such an activity would not harm the public and the environment.

"The board decided to give them temporary revocable permit
for one year. We're working on the authorization now," Hofschneider said.

The military exercises may take place as soon as the permit is
released. "This is part of their overall training to enhance their response
capabilities. We should be supporting the U.S. especially when it's the nation's
security that's at stake," Hofschneider said.

Based on the discussion, the U.S. Navy would use the area as a
training ground in searching a downed aircraft and in rescuing personnel.

"It's a simulation. There's not going to be a landing. It's
just a helicopter coming in to drop personnel who would search for the
pilot," said Hofschneider.

He added that the U.S. Navy has agreed that any activity in the
area will be coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and the
Emergency Management Office ahead of time.

Hofschneider disclosed that the Northern Islands mayor has
expressed concern on the military training. "These concerns are valid and
agencies will be coordinated to ensure that these can be addressed."

He said the mayor raised public safety and environmental issues.

The U.S. Department of Navy turned in its request for the area
use early this month.

"The Navy wants to use a very small area in the crater for
their training," Hofschneider justified.

The area is said to have vegetation and a small pond. The Navy's
land use request was coursed through the Office of the Veterans Affairs.

April 30, 2003

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