Hayun lågu is one of the most endangered trees in the world. The entire global occurrence of hayun lågu (Serianthes nelsonii) is comprised of only one adult tree on Guam and perhaps no more than 30 adult trees in Rota. Of special significance to Guam, this tree was named in 1919 for Peter Nelson, a botanist and director of the Guam Department of Agriculture, who collected the first specimens to be described to science. Standing on the Ritidian cliff line, the last mother tree on Guam, the last seed source for the entire Guam population, will be completely surrounded by a firing range.

In designing their plans for the firing range complex, Department of Defense (DoD) planners drew a small notch in the northwest corner of their largest range, indicating that the tree would be spared, but all the surrounding forest would be cut down and completely removed for the impact area. However, scientific literature abounds with evidence of the harmful effects of fragmenting forests and creating disturbed edges. The last hayun lågu on Guam, will become more exposed to damaging winds, fire from training exercises, and easier incursion from invasive plants and insects that are so distinct in these types of edge habitats. Many of Nelsonʼs descendants still live on Guam, and many have not had the chance to see the tree that carries their familyʼs name. If the firing range is constructed as planned, there is a chance they never will.
The fact that Guamʼs last hayun lågu occurs on this cliff line is not surprising as this forest is uniquely pristine and harbors a variety of Guamʼs rare species. Located within the proposed footprint of the firing range complex and main cantonment areas is one of a very few pristine limestone karst forests left in Guam. Limestone karst forests, the dominant forest type in the Marianas, are some of the most amazing, yet most endangered, habitat types in the world. This forest is so valuable that even DoD has attempted to set it aside as a conservation area multiple times – including an agreement with the Guam National Wildlife Refuge as Refuge Overlay to be considered endangered species recovery habitat, and even for use as a mitigation area for another large-scale project, called Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, or ISR, Strike. To mitigate for ISR Strike, DoD was required to install a fence to keep deer and pigs out and protect native species in this area. This million-dollar fence is scheduled to be demolished and the forest turned into the firing range complex.
We are writing to the people of Guam to remind them of just how precious this forest is and how catastrophic it would be to lose this gem. It contains endemic species that are found nowhere else on Earth, and are already in trouble from habitat loss and invasive species. In addition to hayun lågu, the firing range could wipe out one of the last and largest populations of the Mariana Eight-Spot butterfly (Hypolimnas octocula), a species extinct on Saipan and now known only from Guam. The list goes on: thousands of fadang (Cycas micronesica) would be cleared and at least five other plants listed under the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, would be affected. Furthermore, fadang is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of endangered species. Very little of this was highlighted in the supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The plant species recently listed under the ESA were not even documented accurately. Once this forest is cut down and its limestone floor destroyed by live ammunition and military exercises, it can never be restored to its current pristine state.

Ritidian, or Litekyan, harkens back to prehistory when Chamorro ancestors lived and thrived near the sea. The buildup threatens to shatter the forest and its cultural heritage connection to the native people of Guam. Indeed, fishers, refuge visitors, and recreational users maintain substantial ties to the area. At the very least, DoD owes the people of Guam a revised EIS before these plans move forward.
In addition, if DoD continues to dismantle previous mitigation, how can the people of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands believe anything that DoD promises us? This mistrust materialized in a lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court on July 27, 2016. The Tinian Womenʼs Association, Guardians of Gani (Gani are the Mariana Islands north of Saipan), Earthjustice and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Navy over current and proposed training plans in the CNMI, focusing on compliance with the ESA and other environmental laws. If DoD destroys a previously required mitigation project, why are they allowed to move forward with multiple construction projects and training on Guam? Are there other DoD actions that fail to comply with the law? Is DoD making the case that they are above the law and that they do not have to comply when it comes to resources that belong to the people of Guam and the CNMI?
So far, they seem to be getting away with it. 
What can concerned residents of the Mariana Islands do to prevent destruction of our resources? Stay informed, make noise, fight back. Our actions must be visible and compelling for our leaders and DoD to take notice.
Contact the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Officeto encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take a stronger stance on the listed species they are mandated to protect.
Urge our governor to take a stand against DoDʼs plans: Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo.
Write to our Mariana Island representatives in Congress and adamantly oppose DoDʼs ISR/Strike and reckless plans for Tinian and Pagan that threaten our valuable resources: Madeleine Z. Bordallo and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.
Linda Tatreau is a retired Guam Department of Education teacher. Joni Quenga Kerr is an associate professor at Guam Community College.