Pentagon Plan to Turn Titian Island into Bombing Range Threatens Rare Pacific Birds
January 16, 2016 TakePart.org & CREDO Action
In 2004, the United States government declared that a tiny and imperiled Pacific island bird called the Tinian monarch had pulled back from the brink of extinction and removed it from the endangered species list. A little over a decade later, that rare success story appears to be at risk. The new threat? The US government. A proposed Pentagon live-fire training complex would remove about 2,000 acres of Tinian monarch habitat and take over one-eighth of the island.
ACTION ALERT: Tinian Monarch Extinction! Don't drop bombs in my backyard! Arley Long / Tinian, MP
TINIAN (January 13, 2016) -- We have yet to claim victory! The Military will have their Draft EIS revisions out soon. There is so much at danger including our Tinian Monarch bird. When will this threat be over. Please help us.
Guahan in Solidarity with Tinian and Pagan
The US Military Could Wipe Out This Tiny Pacific Island Bird TakePart
(January 6, 2016) -- In 2004, the United States government declared that a tiny and imperiled Pacific island bird called the Tinian monarch had pulled back from the brink of extinction and removed it from the endangered species list.
A little over a decade later, that rare success story appears to be at risk. The new threat? The US government.
The Department of Defense has proposed a major new training site on Tinian, the 39-square-mile Mariana island on which the bird lives. If approved, the live-fire training complex -- a place where the military could practice weapons targeting -- would remove about 2,000 acres of Tinian monarch habitat and take over one-eighth of the island.
That could have quite an impact on the birds, which have lost much of their habitat to deforestation, development, and planting of nonnative trees, according to a 2014 report from the US Forest Service.
"The military will be removing habitat that cannot otherwise be restored," said Tara Easter, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which in 2013 petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to return the Tinian monarch to the protection of the Endangered Species Act. "Those birds they're displacing can't go anywhere else because the island is so small and so much is already inhabited."
Last September the FWS agreed with the center's petition and said the species may once again qualify for protection.
That announcement -- the first step in a multiyear process that would be necessary to protect the species -- was opposed by Tinian politician Jude Hofschneider, who in November said the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands had taken steps to protect the species by translocating 49 birds to a nearby island. Another 50 would follow this year, he said.
"There's no guarantee that those translocations are going to work," Easter said. "Tinian monarchs are notoriously difficult to handle in captivity and relocate because they're solitary and extremely territorial. It shouldn't prevent listing, because no one really knows if that is going to be an effective conservation method."
Hofschneider, who did not respond to a request for comment, also said the population of Tinian monarchs has soared in recent years to more than 90,000, a number based on a 2013 survey of Tinian's wildlife conducted by the Department of the Navy. However, the conservation organization BirdLife International uses data from one year earlier to place the population much lower, at between 20,000 and 50,000 individuals.
Aside from habitat loss, Easter said she is worried about the introduction of invasive species such as the brown tree snake, which sneaks aboard military transport vehicles and has devastated bird populations on nearby Guam.
"A lot of people have already seen brown tree snakes on Tinian and are really worried about a mass introduction and what that would mean," she said. "They haven't been able to handle it on Guam, and they wouldn't be able to on Tinian either."
Easter said she hopes an Endangered Species Act designation could help revise the military's proposals before it's too late for the Tinian monarch. "That protection is really, really crucial to make sure that their populations don't plummet again as a result of these activities," she said. "I think if they were denied that protection, then the military could go forward with their plans right now."
The Department of Defense, meanwhile, has not yet secured funding for the base but last month said that it will conduct new studies of the islands and that it expects no delays in its plans.
John R. Platt covers the environment, technology, philanthropy, and more for Scientific American, Conservation, Lion, and other publications. ACTION ALERT: Share This Petition Arley Long / Credo Action
The small Pacific islands of Pagan and Tinian are home to pristine beaches, majestic mountains and colorful sea life. They are also home to 2,800 American citizens, as they are part of the Marianas, a US territory.
The US Navy has plans to bomb these islands as part of a training exercise, obliterating their rare coral ecosystems, wildlife, and important historic artifacts. The islands' residents would be relocated, kicked off their ancestral land for the sake of bomb testing. We cannot let this happen.
Residents of Pagan and Tinian have always had the fighting spirit. In World War II, the islands were taken over as a base of operations by both sides, but the islanders held onto their land. In 1981, a volcano forced a total evacuation of Pagan. But the residents did what they had to do to get back, because these islands are our home, the only home we've ever known.
Now, the US military wants our islands to play war games with our home. We need the Secretary of Navy to cancel plans for Combined Joint Military Training exercises on Tinian and Pagan Islands.
The bombings would restrict the use of two-thirds of my island of Tinian, leaving only 10 square miles for its people, and rare and endangered wildlife. On the island of Pagan, the Navy wants to relocate the entire indigenous population so that they may bomb 100% of the island.
Our pristine beaches would become theaters for elaborate live-ammunition military exercises, and our people's traditions and culture would be all but extinguished.
The residents of Tinian and Pagan are citizens of the United States, just like you. But since we are so far from the mainland and have no representation in Congress, our voices are often not heard. Now, we are crying out to make sure our homes are not demolished, and our 4,000 years of history are not lost forever.
We only have one home. We can't let it be destroyed. Please join us in asking the Secretary of Navy to cancel his plans to bomb Tinian and Pagan.
Send This Letter to:
The President of the United States
United States Department of Defense
US House of Representatives