HAGATNA, Guam (AP)—Guam’s nonvoting delegate in Congress is moving to give the territory’s community members a chance to weigh in on whether the Navy should close part of a wildlife refuge as part of a military buildup.
Pacific Daily News reported Thursday that Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) decided against attaching the proposed plan as an amendment to a larger defense spending bill, which passed a key House committee.
Closing part of the National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian would make way for a safety zone for a military firing range for Marines.
Bordallo said she decided against attaching the plan to the spending bill after speaking with Gov. Eddie Calvo and other territorial lawmakers, as well as landowners near the refuge.
“I agree that our community should have the opportunity to discuss this issue and other concerns regarding the buildup,” Bordallo said. She said the discussions would come during public meetings about how the buildup would affect the environment.
The refuge, which includes a former fishing camp used by Guam settlers about 3,000 years ago, is a key point for cultural tours for students and tourists.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says about 45,000 tourists and 12,000 school students visit the refuge each year. The proposal would limit access to the site about 75 percent of the year.
Calvo say he agrees with the plan and is worried that opposition to it would threaten economic opportunities for the island tied to the buildup.
“The military buildup will not happen without a firing range on Guam,” Calvo said.