Northern Marianas Residents Appeal Decision Allowing Relocation of Marines
The Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani’, PåganWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity — represented by Earthjustice — will continue their fight against the U.S. Navy’s plans to stage massive live-fire war games on the islands of Tinian and Pågan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) as part of the relocation of 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
The groups today appealed a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, which found that the Navy did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it failed to disclose the impacts of mission-essential training in the CNMI before giving the green light to relocate Marines to Guam.
The groups have been fighting this proposal since it was first made public in 2013 and filed suit against the Navy in 2016. 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.
“The proposed training on Tinian would devastate our community, blanketing much of the island in deafening noise and cutting us off from our traditional fishing grounds, cultural sites and recreational beaches,” said Juanita Mendiola of Tinian Women Association. “We need to keep up this fight to protect our island for our children and our children’s children.”
“This is a life or death struggle for the people of Pågan,” said Cinta Kaipat of PåganWatch. “If the Navy’s plans go forward, they will turn our homeland into a militarized wasteland, and we will never be able to return.”
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.
“We respectfully disagree with the district court’s decision,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “NEPA does not allow the Navy to hide from the public the truth about the highly destructive training in the Northern Marianas that Guam-based Marines would need to conduct. Rather, such information must be disclosed before the Navy makes any decisions about relocation, and certainly before the Navy moves forward with implementing the relocation.”
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