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CNMI’S TINIAN CONSIDERS MOVING BIRDS TO ‘GOAT ISLAND’ Contingency plan if military uses Tinian for training

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 17, 2009) – In the event the United States pushes through with its plan to use the military reservation area on Tinian, many of the island's wild animals will be affected and dislocated, according to Rep. Edwin Aldan.

To remedy the situation, Aldan said there is a need to propose a workable plan to relocate the wild animals to nearby Aguiguan Island, also known as Goat Island.

The island is a small speck just southwest of Tinian, with some of the best kept dive site secrets in CNMI waters. The 2.7 square mile island is surrounded by sheer, steep cliffs and is very difficult to approach by sea. For this reason, it is the site of the last of the ancient Chamorro resistance to Spanish colonial rule in 1695.

Aguiguan is presently uninhabited. Remains of Japanese farms from the 1930s and war shelters from World War II can still be found, littered with shells and bombs.

Feral goats and pigs are still found at present and the area is proposed as a marine sanctuary. At one time, the goats were hunted down after they began to defoliate the entire island.

Tinian was a major sugarcane growing and processing center but World War II left a denuded forest, said Aldan during a recent tour with newsmen around the island, including at the military reservation area.

The island was captured by U.S. forces in mid-1944 and subsequently what were then the world's longest runways were built. These runways were used to launch U.S. planes for attacks on Japan, including the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Two-thirds of Tinian-over 16,000 acres-is currently leased to the U.S. military and the Navy conducts training operations regularly.

Aldan said that among the birds that are in danger of being dislocated is the Tinian monarch or Chuchurican Tinian, a forest bird endemic to the island.

The Tinian monarch inhabits a variety of forest types on Tinian, including native limestone forests, secondary vegetation consisting primarily of non-native plants, and nearly pure stands of introduced tangantangan (Leucaena leucocephala).

It was listed as endangered in 1970 under the authority of the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 because its population was reported to be critically low due to the destruction of native forests by pre-WWII agricultural practices, and by military activities during WW II.

Forest bird surveys on Tinian in 1982 resulted in a population estimate of 39,338 Tinian monarchs. But it was reclassified from endangered to threatened in 1987.

In 1996, a replication of the 1982 surveys yielded a population estimate of 55,720 birds.

Saipan Tribune

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