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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, May 2, 2002

Navy halts bombing in Marianas

By Jaymes Song
Associated Press

An injunction to halt bombing and other military training on a tiny Pacific island could hinder America's ability to defend itself and to prepare for war, a Navy spokesman said.

The Navy ceased using Farallon de Medinilla in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands on Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington issued a 30-day injunction immediately halting all U.S. military activities.

The uninhabited island — measuring 0.3 miles wide and 1.7 miles long — was the only site in the Western Pacific authorized for live-fire exercises.

"If denied long-term use of the range, it would have a tremendously negative impact on Navy readiness," Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said yesterday.

Sullivan ruled March 13 on a lawsuit filed in December 2000 by Earthjustice Legal Defense for the Center for Biological Diversity that the military was violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

The organization claimed the bombing and shelling of Farallon de Medinilla was killing several bird species on the 206-acre island 52 miles from Saipan, the commonwealth's capital. The military has been training on the island since 1971.

Although the ruling is in effect for 30 days, it may lead to a permanent cessation of training on the island, unless the act is amended or the Navy receives a permit to continue training, the Navy said.

Among the birds on the island are masked, brown and red-footed boobies and great frigates.

Gordon said the Navy worked with biologists to strategically place seven targets around the island, away from nesting and environmentally sensitive areas, as well as performing surveys.

"The bird population there has maintained similar growth patterns as the rest of the islands in the Marianas," he said.