Written by Patti Arroyo, Pacific News Center - Guam, Saipan, CNMI, Asia-Pacific
Guam - Scathing allegations have been lodged against Andersen Air Force Base today:
A complaint filed with the Department of Defense Inspector General says Andersen Air Force Base for years has turned a blind eye to poaching of deer by base "volunteers", and are sponsoring questionable construction projects that are harming rare bats, birds and sea turtles, among other native species.
That allegations are listed in a whistleblower disclosure filed by “PEER”, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility that was released today through the website Common Dreams.org.
Nancy Mitton has been the Natural Resources Specialist at Andersen since 2006 and filed that disclosure with the DOD Inspector General. Mitton wants the I-G to immediately review widespread environmental violations at the base and the complicity of base command.
She cites rampant poaching by base Volunteer Conservation Officers, including illegal trapping of coconut crabs and resale of trophy deer. She complains that half of the endangered fruit bats 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 she also says the Andersen is 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 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."