Navy upholds its environmental commitments to Guam, CNMI


Col. Samuel Hunter and Command Sgt. Maj. Ira Ford, 658th Regional Support Group commander and command sergeant major, pose for a photo with Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas. (CPT. PHILIP REGINA)

Editor’s Note: This is the beginning of a six-part series where Joint Region Marianas will take a deliberate and focused look at each of the Navy’s Environmental Programs in Guam and the CNMI. The intent of this series is to educate and inform our community on all of the various initiatives that are in place to protect and enhance our islands’ ecosystem.

ASAN, Guam—Joint Region Marianas continues to uphold its legal commitments to protect threatened and endangered species, and to further advance a healthy ecosystem for the people of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“We take our environmental responsibility seriously as evidenced in the range of initiatives and programs we have to protect the island’s ecosystems,” said Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, JRM commander. “We have been working closely with resource partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure full compliance with agreements such as the amended 2015 Biological Opinion and the Endangered Species Act in support of the Marine Corps relocation to Guam.”

Not only is a healthy and vibrant ecosystem important to the islands and the region, it also supports the mission of the Navy and Marine Corps in Guam and the CNMI. Therefore, the Navy remains steadfast in its commitment to investing millions of dollars in time, personnel and resources to ensure that not only is it meeting its legal obligations, but perhaps more importantly, that it is advancing its environmental stewardship on the island as the Navy protects, conserves and mitigates any impacts to the natural environment for future generations.

“The Navy is a leader in its role as a natural resources steward in Guam and the CNMI,” said John F. Salas, JRM environmental director. “We dedicate substantial effort and resources to protect native plants and wildlife to ensure compliance with the ESA while at the same time serving the public interest by meeting vital national security obligations.”

Examples of the Navy’s environmental stewardship in action in Guam include the Guam Micronesian Kingfisher Memorandum of Agreement, Forest Enhancement, Northwest Field Ungulate Fencing and Eradication, Serianthes nelsonii (hayun lågu) Protection and Propagation, Threatened and Endangered Species Salvage and Propagation and Brown Tree Snake Suppression.

Each one of these programs will be highlighted over the next few weeks as we dedicate the time to explain each of the ways in which the Navy is taking care of the island environment.

Today we take a closer look at the Guam Micronesian Kingfisher (sihek). Unfortunately, Brown Tree Snakes eradicated the Guam Micronesian Kingfisher population in Guam by the late 1980s, although a small population of the birds still exist in captivity. GMK breeding efforts are underway and BTS suppression is ongoing (to be highlighted in a later article in this series). These programs are necessary to be able to reintroduce the GMK back to the wild in Guam.

GMK Habitat is also a key part of the reintroduction of the species. The GMK Memorandum of Agreement is a collaboration between the Navy along with the USFWS to designate 5,234 acres of DoD land in northern Guam for specific, focused and durable habitat protection. Under this program, the Navy has made up to $2 million available annually to support the agreement’s objectives. The Navy continues to work with USFWS to identify, develop, and implement management activities on those lands and identify priority projects for award in fiscal year 2023.

In addition to the GMK MOA, the Navy has been working with inter-agency partners to establish a proactive, voluntary conservation partnership under the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program. JRM has invested more than $4 million in DoD REPI funding for off-installation, collaborative conservation projects in partnership with the government of Guam, USFWS, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Guam Preservation Trust, and other partners since 2020. JRM has collaborated with partners in the REPI program to implement conservation actions outside JRM installations, to ensure a whole-island approach to Guam’s conservation challenges. We intend to continue to seek resources to invest in and to grow this important partnership. (PR)

Press Release
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