The U.S. Department of the Navy (DON) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) virtually via video conference 14 May to establish live fire training range complex in Guam.
The management of the Ritidian Unit of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge (GNWR), the U.S. Geological Survey Brown Treesnake Research and Rapid Response Facilities (BTS RRR), and operation of the overlapping surface danger zones (SDZs) are all included in this MOA. It will support the establishment and operation of the live fire training range complex on Joint Region Marianas property and associated SDZs which will overlay a portion of the GNWR. The live fire training range complex is part of the Guam military relocation, and was described in detail in the 2015 Final Environmental Impact Statement.
“I am pleased with the work the Navy and Fish and Wildlife Service have done to advance our national security in a sustainable way,” said Aurelia Skipwith, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director. “This agreement sets a benchmark for collaboration between our agencies in Guam, a unique ecological and strategic part of America and it enables us to continue our ongoing research operations, meet our conservation mandate and provide access for all Americans.”
The DON and DOI collaboratively developed the MOA under the authority of section 2822 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 in order to ensure continued management and operation of the GNWR and BTS RRR by USFWS and USGS.
“This landmark agreement is an example of what strong partnerships can produce,” said Karnig Ohannessian, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment. “This agreement allows Department of Defense (DOD) to construct and operate training ranges to support the Marine Corps relocation to Guam, preserves public access, and ensures that the Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS can continue their vital conservation and research missions at the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. I look forward to working with both agencies to implement this important agreement.”
To support operation of the range complex, the DON will build permanent replacement facilities for the USFWS and USGS, along with new access routes, on the Refuge, but outside the SDZs. This will ensure continued public use of the Refuge, including portions of the beach consistent with USFWS Refuge access procedures even during times when the range complex is in use.
“Through this agreement, Interior and the Navy have demonstrated the ability to balance protection of an area that is important culturally and historically, while also promoting scientific and security interests for Guam and America,” said Douglas W. Domenech, Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs.
Prior to the construction of the facilities and access, the DON will comply with all applicable laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.
“The USGS has a long history of collaborating with the Department of Defense in support of U.S. facilities and force readiness in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. One of our signature efforts ongoing today is a collaboration with DOD, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the local government in minimizing the impacts of the invasive brown treesnakes (BTS) and improve BTS controls on military lands on Guam. Today’s signing of this memorandum of agreement continues in that tradition,” said Dr. Jim Reilly, director of the USGS. “USGS scientists are also working to improve methods on Guam and elsewhere to facilitate DOD’s goal of restoration of native ecosystems while minimizing impacts to force readiness activities. Further, we are leading multi-agency efforts to respond to snake sightings elsewhere in the Pacific. The people of USGS are proud to continue our support with the Fish and Wildlife Service, DOD, and our island partners in these vital research and rapid-response efforts during the relocation and rebuilding process.”
Both the DON and DOI share common goals for the recovery of endangered and threatened species, the protection of native flora and fauna, the conservation of unique ecosystems, the maintenance of native biological diversity, and the continued enjoyment and use of the GNWR by the people of Guam.