June 23, 2013

From a Colleague:

Pagan Island is a beautiful island 200 miles north of Saipan in the northern Marianas chain.  We never saw a bird on Pagan that wasn't a native/endemic.  There were lots of the endangered Marianas fruit bats, and the very endangered Micronesian megapode is on Pagan.  It is also home to a unique population of the endangered tree snail Partula gibba.  

Last year, Pagan Island was threatened by commercial interests in Japan and Saipan, who proposed to mine the island for volcanic ash (called pozolan, it makes very good cinder blocks) and fill the ships on the voyage to Pagan with tsunami debris from Japan.  (The island would be turned into a mine and a dump.)  On the Save Pagan Island website <>, we quickly gathered close to 3,000 signatures, dumped them electronically on the desk of the governor of the CNM, and pretty much closed down the mine-dump plan.

Now, the US Marines have announced plans to take ALL of Pagan Island and turn it into the next Kaho‘olawe  (for more information on the EIS preparation, go to <">).  There are detailed plans available on a US Navy/Marines website (see op-ed below).  They include stationing hundreds to thousands of marines on this small island, and blasting and bombing it with all the power they have.  



From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, May 8, 2013

Here we go again: Military to bomb fragile island
By Michael G. Hadfield

Not another Kahoolawe! Another unique Pacific island has been selected by the U.S. military for “live fire training.”

Pagan Island, a biological treasure house and an ancestral home to Chamorro people, lies 200 miles north of Saipan in the middle of the Northern Marianas chain.

Only 10 miles long and 1 to 4 miles wide, Pagan is made up of two volcanoes: Mount Pagan is still active, pouring out a near constant column of smoke and steam; the southern volcano, last active in the late 1800s, retains native forests that serve as home to species of birds, snails, insects and plants unique to the Marianas. Pagan Island is spectacularly beautiful.

On March 14, the Navy announced its “intent to prepare the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Joint Military Training Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (Federal Register /Vol. 78, No. 50 /Thursday, March 14, 2013 /Notices 16257).

This document states: “The proposed action is to establish a series of live-fire and maneuver Ranges and Training Areas within the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to meet this purpose,” and only Tinian and Pagan islands meet specifications.

Further details are at the website: <> .

Most alarming is the statement regarding Pagan Island: “The U.S. military intends to use the entire island with a full spectrum of weapons and joint training activities.”

In May 2010, seven colleagues and I spent 11 days on Pagan Island surveying for a rare tree-snail species whose range extends only from Guam in the south to Pagan Island in the north.

The species, Partula gibba, once abundant on Guam, has been so decimated there by introduced predators and habitat destruction that it is nearly extinct and is listed as “endangered” by the Territory of Guam.

It has vanished from Tinian, exists in only a single known population on Saipan, and has unknown numbers on the small islands between Saipan and Pagan. We found this rare Mariana tree snail on Pagan Island. There are perhaps a few hundred snails there in an area less than a mile in diameter. Our genetic studies reveal that snail populations are unique to each island.

In addition, the birds we saw on Pagan Island all belonged there; there were no introduced mynahs, cardinals, doves or any of the other non-native birds that greet us on the streets of Honolulu. Pagan Island is home to the Mariana fruit bat, also declared endangered on Guam, and the Micronesian Megapode, endangered throughout its range.

Importantly, Pagan Island is considered home by many Chamorro people. Although the entire population of Pagan was removed at the time of the last eruption of Mount Pagan in 1981, many of them return to the island whenever possible and a few reside there continuously. They value Pagan Island as much as any people value their ancestral homes.

There are many reasons why Pagan Island should be preserved, but most of all we should ask: Why should more lands, especially unique islands, be bombed into oblivion? Is it not enough that much of Kahoolawe was turned into bare rock by military bombardment, and that great stretches of that island remain inaccessible because of the unexploded bombs and shells buried in the soil?

The military continues to devastate vast stretches of Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island and Schofield Ranges on Oahu by bombing, strafing and shelling. Why more?-

Michael G. Hadfield is a professor of biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.