Thursday, April 02, 2009

30 Tinian Farmers May Be Displaced by the US Military

30 Tinian farmers, ranchers may be displaced by the US military
By Moneth Deposa
The Saipan Tribune
April 3, 2009

A significant number of farmers, ranchers, and hog raisers on Tinian are expected to be displaced if the U.S. military decides to fully utilize the property it leased on the island.

According to the Tinian Legislative Delegation, up to 30 ranchers and farmers -- about 80 percent of the island's agriculture sector -- would be affected and the municipality needs to find a site soon for their relocation.

Delegation chair Sen. Joseph Mendiola said final plans detailing what specific part of Tinian will be used for military exercises and training will be presented to the island's leaders in July.

The U.S. military holds the lease to about two-thirds of available land on Tinian.

“We don't know yet the final plans for Tinian. Up to this time, we're still waiting word from the military, which is also coordinating with the municipality and the governor. [There is] no final word yet if all two-thirds of Tinian would be used for their training sites,” he said.

Without the military's confirmation, the delegation cannot plan for the future of its farmers and ranchers, Mendiola said.

Although the Tinian community is counting on the positive economic impact of the buildup, they are also concerned about possible displacement.

“A lot of farmers and ranchers would be displaced if they [U.S. military] decide to use the entire two-thirds of Tinian,” Mendiola said

The senator said some public lands on Tinian may be identified as new sites for the farmers and ranchers.

If it were up to him, Mendiola said, he prefers that the military use the North Field as an exclusive military training ground.

He added that the island's airport is close to the U.S. military's leased property and problems may arise if the area is used for live-fire training and other military exercises.

The transfer of some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan to Guam starting in 2012 is projected to benefit the CNMI, particularly Tinian.

However, Mendiola said, even the approximate number of U.S. Marines who will be assigned to Tinian is not known yet.

“Even that number is not available to us.we're still on a 'waiting game,'” he said, adding that whatever recommendation the CNMI leadership may have for the military would be supported by the delegation.

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