Defending the Northern Mariana Islands

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.

Attorneys

David Henkin

Regional Office / Program

Case 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.

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.

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)

Case Updates

September 12, 2018 Document

Notice of Appeal to U.S. Dept. of the Navy, et al re: Mariana Islands Navy Training

Notice is hereby given that Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani', Pagan Watch and the Center for Biological Diversity, plaintiffs in the case, hereby appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from the Judgment in a Civil Action entered in this action on the 22nd day of August, 2018 (ECF No. 95), and from the Amended Decision and Order on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment entered in this action on the 31st day of August, 2018 (ECF No....

The island of Pågan.
September 12, 2018 Press Release

Northern Marianas Residents Appeal Decision Allowing Relocation of Marines

Citizen and environmental groups argue that U.S. Navy must consider the full impact of live-fire training on Pågan and Tinian as part of moving thousands of Marines to Guam

October 13, 2017 Document

Legal Document: Federal Judge Denies Motion To Dismiss Lawsuit Over Pågan, Tinian Training

U.S. District Judge Ramona Manglona refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging U.S. Navy plans for the Marine Corps to conduct live-fire training in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In a decision issued in Saipan, Judge Manglona said the lawsuit questioning whether the Navy failed to consider all the impacts associated with the plan to transfer 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and begin staging massive, live-fire war games on the islands of Pågan and Tinian can proceed.