Friday, December 04, 2009

Buildup to impact heritage sites

Buildup to impact heritage sites

Friday, 04 December 2009 04:06
by Jennifer Naylor Gesick and Zita Taitano | Variety News Staff

SEVERAL endangered species of trees endemic to Guam and important to the traditional culture of islanders are under serious threat if plans for militarizing Guam further, as indicated in the draft environmental impact statement, are followed through.

Additionally, significant adverse impacts to archeological and culturally valuable properties, most of which but not all, have been identified on department of defense lands are also at great risk due to military development schemes.

Extensive data collection and surveys examined more than 5,000 acres on Guam, recording more than 100 archaeological sites and architectural resources that would qualify for protection under the National Register of Historic Places.

Rare wood

Construction eyed for Finegayan at Andersen South, and a firing range tentatively sited for lands not under control by the defense department would require the removal of dukduk trees, a traditional resource used by canoe builders and the decimation of critically-endangered ifit, or ifi, trees traditionally used as timber, for fuel wood and craftsman art.

The ifit tree, often called ipil or ifil by locals, is the official tree of Guam. The termite-resistant hardwood has completely disappeared from some parts of southeast Asia already and is increasingly harder to find on Guam.

Saving culture

The military impact report did however outline some potential mitigation measures that might serve to reduce the negative effects of the military buildup and expansion on Guam. The report states that through data recovery, implementation of a preservation plan, public education, signs, brochures and documentation adverse repercussions could be brought to less significant levels.

Apra Harbor, Andersen AFB, Orote Field, and Andersen South and a sizable portion of land south of Route 15 were identified in the impact study as being at-risk of serious disturbance of areas with both a low and high probability of containing important cultural heritage sites.


The Finegayan area marked for military housing and adjacent former Federal Aviation Administration lands, as well as the Harmon Annex, are dotted with historically relevant sites, according to the report.

A variety of construction at NCTS Finegayan and South Finegayan including housing, quality of life facilities, administration, training, and education could be affected by construction and development, too.

The initial planning process considered the locations of notable heritage sites and avoided impacting the majority of the historic properties in the area. Additional efforts would have to be made during the final planning stage to avoid all historic properties, noted the impact study.

However, additional personnel into the area once the community is operational, the impact study warned, could increase site vandalism, especially at the coastal site of Haputo and a latte stone-rich parcel designated as a park.

The perfunctory study goes on to list adverse impacts implications for archaeological sites at Andersen South.

100% disturbia

The air force base is scheduled to see high construction activity during the buildup period as outlined in the impact statement. One construction project at Andersen AFB would occur in an area of low- and high-archaeological probability as artifacts are known to be widely scattered around the entire parcel of land.

Given the level of development in the area, it is assumed that 100 percent of the area would be disturbed, the report concludes.

Other building projects risk several prehistoric Chamorro sites as well also known to military planners from previous studies. However, the impact report claims the ancient heritage sites of the indigenous people would not be impacted by proposed actions.

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