For Immediate Release
Okinawa Delegation Seeks Support for Stopping U.S. Military Project That Threatens the Endangered Dugong
SAN FRANCISCO - A delegation of 27 political and community leaders from Okinawa, Japan is visiting the United States to seek support for its efforts to stop the U.S. military from building a large new base in biologically rich and sensitive Henoko and Oura Bay, home to the dugong — a marine mammal related to manatees that is an ancient cultural icon in Okinawa — and other endangered species. That project is strongly opposed by residents of the island, which has had a tremendous U.S. military presence since the end of World War II, and Okinawan Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who last month withdrew local consent for the project.
The Bay Area portion of the delegation’s visit on Nov. 15-18 includes meetings with representatives of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, receptions at the city halls in San Francisco and Berkeley, a press conference at San Francisco’s War Memorial Building (401 Van Ness Avenue, 2nd Floor, on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 11 a.m.), and meetings with the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups that are challenging the project in U.S. federal court. That case is now before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, with oral arguments expected in spring 2016.
“Okinawa dugongs are facing extinction, a sad fact that the approval process for this project ignored. We stand with the Okinawan people in calling for a real environmental review and respect for local concerns,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center. “We shouldn’t let the U.S. military continue to trash this biologically important region.”
During a meeting at the Center’s Oakland office, delegation members said that American and international popular support is crucial to stopping a project that is being pushed by the U.S. Department of Defense and the national government in Japan. “We need to reach as many people in the United States as possible and get them to stand up and say this is wrong,” Naha City Council member Emiko Miyagi said.
Yoshiaki Nitta, a member of Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, recalled the long history of U.S. military occupation of the island and called for new era of mutual respect. “What’s happening now is unreasonable and unjust and not the way things are supposed to go,” said Nobutake Yasutomi, a member of the Kin-Town Assembly. “We feel like there is discrimination and oppression against the people of Okinawa.”
The Okinawa delegation travels next to Washington, D.C., where it will meet with the Marine Mammal Commission, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other groups before leaving the country on Nov. 21.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.