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Defending the Northern Mariana Islands

Photo of Pågan Island ca. 1970.

"The people of the Mariana Islands will fight to protect our homes and our way of life as hard as we must and for as long as we must," said Jerome Kaipat Aldan, mayor of the Northern Islands.

Pågan Island, ca. 1970. Courtesy of Cinta Kaipat

What's at Stake

The training would destroy native forests and coral reefs, kill native wildlife—including endangered species—and destroy prime farmland.

Cultural and historic sites would be destroyed. Indigenous Chamorro and Refaluwasch (Carolinian) families evacuated from Pågan in 1981 would never be able to return, their former home turned into a militarized wasteland.

Overview

Plans by the U.S. Navy to transfer 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and begin staging massive, live-fire war games on the islands of Tinian and Pågan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands would severely disrupt communities on Tinian and shatter the dreams of families who want to return to live permanently on Pågan.

Tinian and Pågan are two of the fifteen islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Northern Marianas are located just north of Guam.

The training proposed for Tinian and Pågan would be intense and destructive. War games would include artillery, mortars, rockets, amphibious assaults, attack helicopters and warplanes and, on Pågan, ship-to-shore naval bombardment. The training would destroy native forests and coral reefs, kill native wildlife—including endangered species—and destroy prime farmland.

Communities on Tinian—mostly indigenous Chamorro and low-income residents—would be subjected to high-decibel noise, as well as restricted access to traditional fishing grounds, cultural sites and recreational beaches. Cultural and historic sites would be destroyed. Indigenous Chamorro and Refaluwasch (Carolinian) families evacuated from Pågan in 1981 would never be able to return, their former home turned into a militarized wasteland.

Tinian is a small island with a population of just over 3,000. Currently, the only live-fire training conducted there is limited to a sniper target range. No training currently takes place on Pågan, a remote island that has been largely uninhabited since a volcanic eruption in 1981 forced evacuation of the local population. Many former residents and their children would like to return to live on the island.

The groups represented by Earthjustice have been fighting this proposal since it was first made public in 2013.

Case ID

3099, 3135

Attorneys

Case Updates

September 13, 2016 | In the News: The Guardian

Pågan: The Tropical Paradise The US Wants To Turn Into A War Zone

David Henkin, Earthjustice attorney: “The lawsuit’s aim is to force the US navy to be honest about what it needs to do, as distinguished from what it merely wants to do. ... We’re not saying that the marines shouldn’t fulfill their national security mission – it’s the why and where that we’re concerned about.”

July 27, 2016 | Legal Document

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief U.S. Department of the Navy

By this Complaint, Plaintiffs seek to compel Defendants to comply with the national Environmental policy Act ("NEPA") in connection with the Navy's decision to station permanently thousands of U.S. Marines on the island of Guam to conduct live fire training for those Marines on the islands of Tinian and Pågan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.