Air Force Wiping Out Rare Wildlife Of Guam

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

Air Force Wiping Out Rare Wildlife Of Guam

Rampant Poaching, Beach Paving and Human Intrusion Ruins Island Habitat

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Air Force base on Guam is contributing to the
loss of the highly endangered wildlife it is supposed to protect, according
to a whistleblower disclosure filed today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). Air Force officials are turning a blind eye to poaching
by base "volunteers" and are sponsoring questionable construction
projects that are harming rare bats, birds and sea turtles, among other native
species.

The formal disclosure by Nancy Mitton, the Natural Resources Specialist at
Andersen Air Force Base on Guam since September 2006, requests that the Department
of Defense Inspector General undertake an immediate review of widespread environmental
violations at the base and the complicity of base command. Among the problems
cited by Mitton are -

  • Rampant poaching by base Volunteer Conservation Officers, including
    illegal trapping of coconut crabs and resale of trophy deer;
  • Half of the endangered fruit bats (a local delicacy) on the base
    have recently disappeared. A flock of extremely rare Mariana crows has been
    virtually wiped out by hunters. Yet, in both cases base command refused to
    take recommended protective steps; and
  • Paving beaches and stripping vegetation used for nesting by endangered
    hawksbill turtles and threatened green sea turtles. Among the questionable
    shoreline projects pushed by base officers are dog trails to allow their
    pets to run unleashed on sensitive wildlife tracts.

"The Air Force program for protecting Guam's natural resources
has utterly broken down" stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein,
who today filed Mitton's complaint with the Defense Inspector General. "Officers
are treating sensitive wildlife habitat like their personal beach resort."

Many of the issues identified by Mitton involve unrestricted hunting by local
volunteers who are allowed to enter and leave the Air Force base without their
vehicles being searched, in violation of security rules. In addition, the disclosure
describes a variety of unsafe ordnance detonation practices.

Andersen AFB occupies the northern end of the island of Guam and hosts the
36th Wing of the Pacific Air Forces. It is one of four Bomber Forward Operating
Locations in the Air Force which support bomber crews deploying overseas. Plans
are underway for the U.S. Navy to take over Anderson AFB.

"Andersen is so remote that there is a feeling of invulnerability reported
by staff about the command - a sense that rules do not apply on the island," Dinerstein
added. "Until our Defense agencies start holding officers to account
for environmental violations, the vast trove of vital natural resources in
military custody can never be secure."

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Read the disclosure

See a summary of problems at Andersen AFB

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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