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
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 <http://www.savepaganisland.org/>,
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 <"http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-03-14/html/2013-05837.htm>).
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
From the Honolulu
Star-Advertiser, May 8, 2013
Here we go again: Military to bomb fragile island
Michael G. Hadfield
Not another Kahoolawe! Another unique Pacific island has
been selected by the U.S. military for “live fire
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
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
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
Michael G. Hadfield is a professor of biology at
the University of Hawaii at Manoa.