With the U.S. military proposing live-fire practice on Pagan, Department of Land and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Seman called the island a “midpoint” instrument in the department’s access to the rest of the Northern Islands.
“If you understand the Northern Islands, everything that our future holds with the Northern Island is tied into Pagan. Pagan is by far the only place where you will be able to have a runway, where you may able to build a facility, where a fuel station might occur,” he said.
“So when we start talking about the entire Northern Islands, whether it’s a marine monument, whether you are talking about the three sanctuary islands—everything that will get you there, Pagan plays a big role.”
“Once you give up Pagan, you just triple the difficulty for the rest of the Northern Islands,” he said, adding that all their projects in the Northern Islands, whether on Sariguan, Alamagan or Aguiguan— involved Pagan.
Pagan plays “a big role in how we do our work” because of its proximity and how fuel can be offloaded there via helicopter, he said.
He said restricted access, or restricted air or sea space, “will completely disrupt our ability to do our work the way we’ve been doing it.
“It will make assessment difficult. It will make recovery plans [for terrestrial species] difficult,” he said.
For one, the Marianas Avifauna Conservation project, headed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife, will eventually be on Pagan, according to DFW biologist Tyler Willsey yesterday.
The MAC project “translocates” bird species to islands free from the brown tree snake.
These target islands are Sarigan, Guiguan, Alamagan, Pagan, Agrihan, and Asuncion.
“Depending upon access allowed” to the project by the Department of Defense, a MAC report proposed a project timeline to 2032 to move these bird species.
Manuel Pangelinan, DFW director, earlier said his division evaluates concerns of “competing use” and will have to determine “whether that’s the best place [Pagan] to continue with program.”