GUAM—A senator of the 35th Guam Legislature has asked the U.S. Congress to block the construction of a firing range in Guam that would be located at what she describes as a “sacred site” adjacent to other sacred sites on the island.
In a letter addressed to Congress last week, Sen. Sabina Perez urged congressional leaders to hold the release of federal funds earmarked in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
“The bulldozing of sacred sites has begun,” said Perez, “and they ignore our governor and our Legislature when we demand they stop.”
According to a statement from Perez’s office, she said the Joint Region Marianas earlier denied the demand outlined in the Guam Legislature’s Resolution 164-35, which called for an immediate halt on the construction of the U.S. Navy’s Live-Fire Training Range Complex at Northwest Field
The 2020 NDAA includes funding for continued construction of the firing range. “I now call upon our leaders in Congress to exercise their right to question and cut wasteful federal spending on a military firing range that threatens our natural and cultural resources,” Perez said.
In her letter to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Perez notes that the site of the live-fire training ranges is on a sacred site known as Tailålo’, which is adjacent to other sacred, ancestral sites of Litekyan, Uruano, Inapsan, and Pahung. She said that more than 79 ancestral and historic sites will be adversely impacted, and 14 historic sites have already been destroyed.
“This Saturday [was] All Souls Day, a time to honor the memory and spirit of our ancestors. This is a solemn and sacred time, yet we find ourselves fighting a military project that ignores the voice of our people, disturbs the resting place of our ancestors, and destroys the sites of our ancient villages,” said Perez.
Perez further pointed out that the firing range complex “Surface Danger Zone” will extend over 68% of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge, restricting access to the refuge for traditional healers and the Guam community and to the adjacent fishing grounds for up to 39 weeks of the year and impacting the management of endangered and threatened species. The construction of a fifth firing range requires the clearing of primary limestone forest, which is habitat for at least 11 endangered or threatened species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
“The military’s destruction of pristine forest and archaeological sites is shocking and unprecedented, and it must stop. It’s critical that NDAA appropriations be put on hold to save our sacred sites and protect our natural and cultural resources,” said Perez.
In her letter, Perez also highlights the wasteful use of government funds to build a firing range that undermines federally funded environmental protection projects. “The NDAA proposes using federal funds to tear down a federally funded fence that currently protects a fragile wildlife refuge from feral ungulates. This is just one example of how the Department of Defense’s piecemeal approach lacks transparency, respect for our people and Guam, and frankly, any coherent logic,” said Perez. “I encourage congressional oversight on this haphazard, wasteful use of federal funds to build an unnecessary and environmentally destructive firing range against the wishes of our people.”
Perez sent her letter to members of the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives, and to members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate. She asks that comprehensive oversight include four key areas: excessive federal spending, cumulative impacts to the environment, threats to endangered species, and insufficient historic preservation.
“The military leadership [in] Guam ignores local concerns, and they disrespect our ancestors. It’s time to bypass their single-minded, harmful attitude, and address the congressional body who can provide much needed oversight on the mismanagement of our sacred sites and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and who hold fiduciary responsibility of the destruction against our will and without our informed consent.” said Perez. (PR)